Authors: Romans-Casas M.; Perona-Vico E.; Dessì P.; Bañeras L.; Balaguer M.D.; Puig S.

Boosting ethanol production rates from carbon dioxide in MES cells under optimal solventogenic conditions

Microbial Electrosynthesis (MES) has been widely applied for acetic acid (HA) production from CO2 and electricity. Ethanol (EtOH) has a higher market value than HA, and wide application in industry and as a biofuel. However, it has only been obtained sporadically and at low concentrations, probably due to sub-optimal operating conditions. This study aimed at enhancing EtOH productivity in MES cells by jointly optimising key operation parameters, including pH, H2 and CO2 partial pressure (pH2 and pCO2), and HA concentration, to promote solventogenesis. Two H-type cells were operated in fed-batch mode at −0.8 V vs. SHE with CO2 as the sole carbon source. A mixed culture, enriched with Clostridium ljungdahlii was used as the biocatalyst. The combination of low pH (<4.5) and pCO2 (<0.3 atm), along with high HA concentration (about 6 g L−1) and pH2 (>3 atm), were mandatory conditions for maintaining an efficient solventogenic culture, dominated by Clostridium sp., capable of high-rate EtOH production. The maximum EtOH production rate was 10.95 g m−2 d−1, and a concentration of 5.28 g L−1 was achieved. Up to 30 % of the electrons and 15.2 % of the carbon provided were directed towards EtOH production, and 28.1 kWh were required for the synthesis of 1 kg of EtOH from CO2. These results highlight that strict conditions are required for a continuous, reliable, EtOH production in MES cells. Future investigation should focus on improving cell configuration to achieve EtOH production at higher current densities while minimizing the electric energy input. 

Authors:Romans-Casas M.; Perona-Vico E.; Dessì P.; Bañeras L.; Balaguer M.D.; Puig S.
Reference:Science of the Total Environment, Volume 85615, January 2023, Article number 159124