Biotechnological Products and Process Engineering

Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 97, Issue 1, pp 135-142

First online:

Controlling autonomous underwater floating platforms using bacterial fermentation

  • Justin C. BiffingerAffiliated withChemistry Division, US Naval Research Laboratory Email author 
  • , Lisa A. FitzgeraldAffiliated withChemistry Division, US Naval Research Laboratory
  • , Erinn C. HowardAffiliated withChemistry Division, US Naval Research LaboratoryThe Scientific Consulting Group, Inc.
  • , Emily R. PetersenAffiliated withNova Research, Inc.
  • , Preston A. FulmerAffiliated withChemistry Division, US Naval Research Laboratory
  • , Peter K. WuAffiliated withDepartment of Physics, Southern Oregon University
  • , Bradley R. RingeisenAffiliated withChemistry Division, US Naval Research Laboratory

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Biogenic gas has a wide range of energy applications from being used as a source for crude bio-oil components to direct ignition for heating. The current study describes the use of biogenic gases from Clostridium acetobutylicum for a new application—renewable ballast regeneration for autonomous underwater devices. Uninterrupted (continuous) and blocked flow (pressurization) experiments were performed to determine the overall biogas composition and total volume generated from a semirigid gelatinous matrix. For stopped flow experiments, C. acetobutylicum generated a maximum pressure of 55 psi over 48 h composed of 60 % hydrogen gas when inoculated in a 5 % agar (w/v) support with 5 % glucose (w/v) in the matrix. Typical pressures over 24 h at 318 K ranged from 10 to 33 psi. These blocked flow experiments show for the first time the use of microbial gas production as a way to repressurize gas cylinders. Continuous flow experiments successfully demonstrated how to deliver biogas to an open ballast control configuration for deployable underwater platforms. This study is a starting point for engineering and microbiology investigations of biogas which will advance the integration of biology within autonomous systems.


Clostridium acetobutylicum Hydrogen Pressure Ballast Fermentation