Simplified Reactor Design for Mixed Culture-Based Electrofermentation toward Butyric Acid Production

Paola Piano, Giuliano Premier, Alan Guwy, Amandeep Kaur, Iain Michie, Mauro Majone, Marianna Villano

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Mixed microbial culture (MMC) electrofermentation (EF) represents a promising tool to drive metabolic pathways toward the production of a specific compound. Here, the MMC-EF process has been exploited to obtain butyric acid in simplified membrane-less reactors operated by applying a difference of potential between two low-cost graphite electrodes. Ten values of voltage difference, from −0.60 V to −1.5 V, have been tested and compared with the experiment under open circuit potential (OCP). In all the tested conditions, an enhancement in the production rate of butyric acid (from a synthetic mixture of glucose, acetate, and ethanol) was observed, ranging from 1.3- to 2.7-fold relative to the OCP. Smaller enhancements in the production rate resulted in higher values of the calculated specific energy consumption. However, at all applied voltages, a low flow of current was detected in the one-chamber reactors, accounting for an average value of approximately −100 μA. These results hold a substantial potential with respect to the scalability of the electrofermentation technology, since they pinpoint the possibility to control MMC-based bioprocesses by simply inserting polarized electrodes into traditional fermenters.
Original languageEnglish
Article number417
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2021


  • Applied voltage
  • Butyric acid
  • Electrofermentation
  • Mixed microbial cultures
  • Single-chamber reactor


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