Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 89, Issue 6, pp 2053–2063 | Cite as

Performance of a pilot-scale continuous flow microbial electrolysis cell fed winery wastewater

  • Roland D. Cusick
  • Bill Bryan
  • Denny S. Parker
  • Matthew D. Merrill
  • Maha Mehanna
  • Patrick D. Kiely
  • Guangli Liu
  • Bruce E. LoganEmail author
Bioenergy and Biofuels


A pilot-scale (1,000 L) continuous flow microbial electrolysis cell was constructed and tested for current generation and COD removal with winery wastewater. The reactor contained 144 electrode pairs in 24 modules. Enrichment of an exoelectrogenic biofilm required ~60 days, which is longer than typically needed for laboratory reactors. Current generation was enhanced by ensuring adequate organic volatile fatty acid content (VFA/SCOD ≥ 0.5) and by raising the wastewater temperature (31 ± 1°C). Once enriched, SCOD removal (62 ± 20%) was consistent at a hydraulic retention time of 1 day (applied voltage of 0.9 V). Current generation reached a maximum of 7.4 A/m3 by the planned end of the test (after 100 days). Gas production reached a maximum of 0.19 ± 0.04 L/L/day, although most of the product gas was converted to methane (86 ± 6%). In order to increase hydrogen recovery in future tests, better methods will be needed to isolate hydrogen gas produced at the cathode. These results show that inoculation and enrichment procedures are critical to the initial success of larger-scale systems. Acetate amendments, warmer temperatures, and pH control during startup were found to be critical for proper enrichment of exoelectrogenic biofilms and improved reactor performance.


Biohydrogen Biomethane Bioelectricity Microbial electrolysis cell Bioenergy 



We thank Andy Hoxsey, Sheldon Parker, Lynn Wantanabe, Stephanie Litty, and the maintenance crew of the Napa Wine Company for their tremendous support throughout this project. The authors also thank Nielson Construction for their expertise, patience, and flexibility during reactor construction and operation. This research was supported in part by Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., and the Paul L. Bush award administered by the Water Environment Research Foundation.

Supplementary material

253_2011_3130_MOESM1_ESM.doc (46 kb)
Figures S1–S2 (DOC 46 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roland D. Cusick
    • 1
  • Bill Bryan
    • 2
  • Denny S. Parker
    • 2
  • Matthew D. Merrill
    • 1
  • Maha Mehanna
    • 1
  • Patrick D. Kiely
    • 1
  • Guangli Liu
    • 3
  • Bruce E. Logan
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringPenn State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Brown and CaldwellWalnut CreekUSA
  3. 3.School of Environmental Science and EngineeringSun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouChina

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