Sustained generation of electricity by the spore-forming, Gram-positive, Desulfitobacterium hafniense strain DCB2

  • C. E. Milliken
  • H. D. MayEmail author
Applied Microbial and Cell Physiology


Desulfitobacterium hafniense strain DCB2 generates electricity in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) when humic acids or the humate analog anthraquinone-2,6-disulfonate (AQDS) is added as an electron-carrying mediator. When utilizing formate as fuel, the Gram-positive, spore-forming bacterium generated up to 400 mW/m2 of cathode surface area in a single-chamber MFC with a platinum-containing air-fed cathode. Hydrogen, lactate, pyruvate, and ethanol supported electricity generation, but acetate, propionate, and butyrate did not. Scanning electron microscopy indicated that strain DCB2 colonized the surface of a current-generating anode but not of an unconnected electrode. The electricity was recovered fully within minutes after the exchange of the medium in the anode chamber and within a week after an exposure of a colonized anode to 90°C for 20 min. Of the six strains of Desulfitobacteria tested, all of which would reduce AQDS, only D. hafniense strain DCB2 continued to reduce AQDS and generate electricity for more than 24 h, indicating that reduction of the humate analog alone is insufficient to sustain electrode reduction.


Fuel Cell Microbial Fuel Cell Anode Chamber Shewanella Putrefaciens Desulfitobacterium 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was supported with funds from the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (grant ES012815-01) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (grant 897-7557-223-2094553/01-0). The authors would like to thank Tom Shaak (United States Air Force) for the assistance in the monitoring of the fuel cells, Carol Moskos (MUSC) for the assistance and instruction on the operation of the SEM, and Steve Creager (Clemson University) for the technical advice on fuel cells.


  1. Bond DR, Lovley DR (2003) Electricity production by Geobacter sulfurreducens attached to electrodes. Appl Environ Microbiol 69:1548–1555PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bond DR, Lovley DR (2005) Evidence for involvement of an electron shuttle in electricity generation by Geothrix fermentans. Appl Environ Microbiol 71:2186–2189PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bond DR et al (2002) Electrode-reducing microorganisms that harvest energy from marine sediments. Science 295:483–485PubMedCrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  4. Cervantes FJ et al (2002) Reduction of humic substances by halorespiring, sulphate-reducing and methanogenic microorganisms. Environ Microbiol 4:51–57PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chaudhuri SK, Lovley DR (2003) Electricity generation by direct oxidation of glucose in mediatorless microbial fuel cells. Nat Biotechnol 21:1229–1232PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cheng S et al (2006) Power densities using different cathode catalysts (Pt and CoTMPP) and polymer binders (Nafion and PTFE) in single chamber microbial fuel cells. Environ Sci Technol 40:364–369PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Finneran KT et al (2002) Desulfitobacterium metallireducens sp. nov., an anaerobic bacterium that couples growth to the reduction of metals and humic acids as well as chlorinated compounds. Int J Syst Evol Microbiol 52:1929–1935PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Holmes DE et al (2004a) Electron transfer by Desulfobulbus propionicus to Fe(III) and graphite electrodes. Appl Environ Microbiol 70:1234–1237PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Holmes DE et al (2004b) Microbial communities associated with electrodes harvesting electricity from a variety of aquatic sediments. Microb Ecol 48:178–190PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Holmes DE et al (2004c) Potential role of a novel psychrotolerant member of the family Geobacteraceae, Geopsychrobacter electrodiphilus gen. nov., sp. nov., in electricity production by a marine sediment fuel cell. Appl Environ Microbiol 70:6023–6030PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kim HJ, Park HS, Hyun MS, Chang IS, Kim M, Kim BH (2002) A mediator-less microbial fuel cell using a metal reducing bacterium Shewanella putrefaciens. Enzyme Microb Technol 30:145–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Liu H, Logan BE (2004) Electricity generation using an air-cathode single chamber microbial fuel cell in the presence and absence of a proton exchange membrane. Environ Sci Technol 38:4040–4046PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lovley DR (2006) Bug juice: harvesting electricity with microorganisms. Nat Rev Microbiol 4:497–508PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lowy DA et al (2006) Harvesting energy from the marine sediment-water interface II. Biosens Bioelectron 21:2058–2063PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Milliken CE, Meier GP, Watts JEM, Sowers KR, May HD (2004) Microbial anaerobic demethylation and dechlorination of chlorinated hydroquinone metabolites synthesized by basidiomycete fungi. Appl Environ Microbiol 70:385–392PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Niggemyer A et al (2001) Isolation and characterization of a novel As(V)-reducing bacterium: implications for arsenic mobilization and the genus Desulfitobacterium. Appl Environ Microbiol 67:5568–5580PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Park DH, Zeikus JG (2000) Electricity generation in microbial fuel cells using neutral red as an electronophore. Appl Environ Microbiol 66:1292–1297PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Park DH, Zeikus JG (2003) Improved fuel cell and electrode designs for producing electricity from microbial degradation. Biotechnol Bioeng 81:348–355PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Park HS, Kim BH, Kim HS, Kim HJ, Kim GT, Kim M, Chang IS, Park YK, Chang HI (2001) A novel electrochemically active and Fe(III)-reducing bacterium phylogenetically related to Clostridium butyricum isolated from a microbial fuel cell. Anaerobe 7:297–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Rabaey K, Boon N, Siciliano SD, Verhaege M, Verstraete W (2004) Biofuel cells select for microbial consortia that self-mediate electron transfer. Appl Environ Microbiol 70:5372–5382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Rabaey K, Boon N, Höfte M, Verstraete W (2005) Microbial phenazine production enhances electron transfer in biofuel cells. Environ Sci Technol 39:3401–3408PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Reguera G et al (2005) Extracellular electron transfer via microbial nanowires. Nature 435:1098–1101PubMedCrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  23. Reimers CE et al (2001) Harvesting energy from the marine sediment-water interface. Environ Sci Technol 35:192–195PubMedCrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  24. Tender LM et al (2002) Harnessing microbially generated power on the seafloor. Nat Biotechnol 20:821–825PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Zhao F et al (2005) Application of pyrolysed iron(II) phthalocyanine and CoTMPP based oxygen reduction catalysts as cathode materials in microbial fuel cells. Electrochem Commun 7:1405–1410CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Microbiology and ImmunologyMedical University of South CarolinaCharlestonUSA

Personalised recommendations