Organotrophic acid-tolerant microorganisms enriched from an acid mine drainage affected environment as inoculum for microbial fuel cells.


Departamento de Ingeniería Hidráulica y Ambiental, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile; CEDEUS, Centro de Desarrollo Urbano Sustentable, Chile. Electronic address: [Email]


Exoelectrogenic communities for bioelectrochemical systems such as microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are usually enriched from microbial consortia of municipal wastewater treatment plants and other circumneutral and mesophilic environments. Thus, the study of extreme environments offers an enormous potential to find new exoelectrogens and expand the functionality and applications of MFC technology. In this study, a microbial community previously enriched from acid mine drainage (AMD) sediments was used as inoculum in single-chamber MFCs operated at pH 3.7. The power obtained from the AMD-derived inoculum reached 1 mW m-2 (27.1 ± 7.8 mV with 1 kΩ external resistance), which compares to previous MFC studies operated under low-pH conditions. Additionally, polarization curves showed power-generation levels of 2.4 ± 0.2 mW m-2 and 0.4 ± 0.3 mW m-2, which were associated with the different inoculum sources: MFCs operated with sulfate concentrations of ~2000 and < 25 mg L-1, respectively. Microbial characterization performed at the end of the operation showed that both anodic and cathodic biofilm communities were highly dominated by the Proteobacteria phylum (>72% of 16S rRNA gene sequences), followed by Firmicutes (4-11%). Furthermore, the anodic microbial communities of the best-performing reactors were dominated by the Delftia genus (phylum Proteobacteria), which was recently identified as a taxon including exoelectrogenic candidates. These findings expand the literature of low-pH operated MFCs and acid-tolerant exoelectrogens, and also represent a starting point to apply this technology to treat acidic organic loads.


Acid mine drainage,Acid-tolerant microorganisms,Exoelectrogens,Microbial fuel cell,Pyrosequencing,

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