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Environmental Research
Volume 196, 2021, 110907

Enhanced product selectivity in the microbial electrosynthesis of butyrate using a nickel ferrite-coated biocathode

Khurram Tahira, Waheed Miranb, Jiseon Jangc, Seung Han Wood, Dae Sung Leea

Department of Environmental Engineering, Kyungpook National University, 80 Daehak-ro, Buk-gu, Daegu, 41566, Republic of Korea.


Microbial electrosynthesis (MES) is a potential sustainable biotechnology for the efficient conversion of carbon dioxide/bicarbonate into useful chemical commodities. To date, acetate has been the main MES product; selective electrosynthesis to produce other multi-carbon molecules, which have a higher commercial value, remains a major challenge. In this study, the conventional carbon felt (CF) was modified with inexpensive nickel ferrite (NiFe2O4@CF) to realize enhanced butyrate production owing to the advantages of improved electrical conductivity, charge transfer efficiency, and microbial-electrode interactions with the selective microbial enrichment. Experimental results show that the modified electrode yielded 1.2 times the butyrate production and 2.7 times the cathodic current production of the CF cathode; product selectivity was greatly improved (from 37% to 95%) in comparison with CF. Microbial community analyses suggest that selective microbial enrichment was promoted as Proteobacteria and Thermotogae (butyrate-producing phyla) were dominant in the NiFe2O4@CF biofilm (~78%). These results demonstrate that electrode modification with NiFe2O4can help realize greater selective carboxylate production with improved MES performance. Hence, this technology is expected to be greatly useful in future reactor designs for scaled-up technologies.

Keyword: Nickel ferrite, Microbial electrosynthesis, Cathode modification, Butyrate, Selectivity.

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