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Microbial Electrochemistry and its Application to Energy and Environmental Issues
AuthorHastings, Jason T.
Chemical and Materials Engineering
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Microbial electrochemistry forms the basis of a wide range of topics from microbial fuel cells to fermentation of carbon food sources. The ability to harness microbial electron transfer processes can lead to a greener and cleaner future. This study focuses on microbial electron transfer for liquid fuel production, novel electrode materials, subsurface environments and removal of unwanted byproducts. In the first chapter, exocellular electron transfer through direct contact utilizing passive electrodes for the enhancement of bio-fuel production was tested. Through the application of microbial growth in a 2-cell apparatus on an electrode surface ethanol production was enhanced by 22.7% over traditional fermentation. Ethanol production efficiencies of close to 95% were achieved in a fraction of the time required by traditional fermentation. Also, in this chapter, the effect of exogenous electron shuttles, electrode material selection and resistance was investigated. Power generation was observed using the 2-cell passive electrode system. An encapsulation method, which would also utilize exocellular transfer of electrons through direct contact, was hypothesized for the suspension of viable cells in a conductive polymer substrate. This conductive polymer substrate could have applications in bio-fuel production. Carbon black was added to a polymer solution to test electrospun polymer conductivity and cell viability. Polymer morphology and cell viability were imaged using electron and optical microscopy. Through proper encapsulation, higher fuel production efficiencies would be achievable. Electron transfer through endogenous exocellular protein shuttles was observed in this study. Secretion of a soluble redox active exocellular protein by <italic>Clostridium<italic> <italic>sp.<italic> have been shown utilizing a 2-cell apparatus. Cyclic voltammetry and gel electrophoresis were used to show the presence of the protein. The exocellular protein is capable of reducing ferrous iron in a membrane separated chamber. In experiments where the redox active protein was allowed to pass through the permeable membrane, iron dissolution was 14-fold greater than experiments where the protein was held to one chamber by a non-permeable membrane. Confirmation of a redox active protein could reshape or understanding of subsurface redox processes. The final topic in this study discusses electron transfer within the cell for production of fermentation products. Glycerol, which is an unwanted side-product of biodiesel transesterfication, is utilized as a carbon source for fermentation. Bacterial samples harvested from Galena Creek soil (NGC) are shown in this study to be efficient consumers of glycerol. NGC microbe was characterized through 16s rDNA genetic sequencing and determined to belong to genus <italic>Clostridium<italic>. <italic>Clostridium<italic> NGC was able to consume glycerol at 29.7gpl within 72hrs grown in a media containing 50gpl glycerol. All observed fermentation metabolites were characterized and quantified through an HPLC. Glycerol consumption rates and metabolite production rates were observed using varying media recipes. This study has found that NGC has higher selectivity for low weight acids at lower yeast extract concentration and higher selectivity for larger acids and alcohols at higher yeast extract concentrations.