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Response to starvation and microbial community composition in microbial fuel cells enriched on different electron donors

Journal article
Authors S. Saheb-Alam
F. Persson
B. M. Wilen
Malte Hermansson
O. Modin
Published in Microbial Biotechnology
Volume 12
Issue 5
Pages 962-975
ISSN 1751-7915
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology
Pages 962-975
Language en
Keywords waste-water treatment, electricity-generation, hydrogen, diversity, glucose, power, electrochemistry, similarity, resistance, overshoot, Biotechnology & Applied Microbiology, Microbiology
Subject categories Microbiology


In microbial fuel cells (MFCs), microorganisms generate electrical current by oxidizing organic compounds. MFCs operated with different electron donors harbour different microbial communities, and it is unknown how that affects their response to starvation. We analysed the microbial communities in acetate- and glucose-fed MFCs and compared their responses to 10 days starvation periods. Each starvation period resulted in a 4.2 +/- 1.4% reduction in electrical current in the acetate-fed MFCs and a 10.8 +/- 3.9% reduction in the glucose-fed MFCs. When feed was resumed, the acetate-fed MFCs recovered immediately, whereas the glucose-fed MFCs required 1 day to recover. The acetate-fed bioanodes were dominated by Desulfuromonas spp. converting acetate into electrical current. The glucose-fed bioanodes were dominated by Trichococcus sp., functioning as a fermenter, and a member of Desulfuromonadales, using the fermentation products to generate electrical current. Suspended biomass and biofilm growing on non-conductive regions within the MFCs had different community composition than the bioanodes. However, null models showed that homogenizing dispersal of microorganisms within the MFCs affected the community composition, and in the glucose-fed MFCs, the Trichococcus sp. was abundant in all locations. The different responses to starvation can be explained by the more complex pathway requiring microbial interactions to convert glucose into electrical current.

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