The addition of electrically conductive materials may enhance anaerobic digestion (AD) efficiency by promoting direct interspecies electron transfer (DIET) between electroactive microorganisms, but an equivalent enhancement can also be achieved using non-conductive materials. Four high surface area brush materials were added to AD reactors: non-conductive horsehair (HB) and polyester (PB), and conductive carbon fiber (CB) and stainless steel (SB) brushes. Reactors with the polyester material showed lower methane production (68 ± 5 mL/g CODfed) than the other non-conductive material (horsehair) and the conductive (graphite or stainless steel) materials (83 ± 3 mL/g CODfed) (p < 0.05). This difference was due in part to the higher biomass concentrations using horsehair or carbon (135 ± 43 mg) than polyester or stainless steel or materials (26 ± 1 mg). A microbial community analysis indicated that the relative abundance of electroactive microorganisms was not directly related to enhanced AD performance. These results show that non-conductive materials such as horsehair can produce the same AD enhancement as conductive materials (carbon or stainless steel). However, if the material, such as polyester, does not have good biomass retention, it will not enhance methane production. Thus, electrical conductivity alone was not responsible for enhancing AD performance. Polyester, which has been frequently used as a non-conductive control material in DIET studies, should not be used for this purpose due to its poor biocompatibility as shown by low biomass retention in AD tests.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Engineering
- Environmental Chemistry
- Waste Management and Disposal