BioEnergy Research

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 481–491 | Cite as

Production of Electricity and Butanol from Microalgal Biomass in Microbial Fuel Cells

  • Aino-Maija LakaniemiEmail author
  • Olli H. Tuovinen
  • Jaakko A. Puhakka


Chlorella vulgaris (a freshwater microalga) and Dunaliella tertiolecta (a marine microalga) were grown for bulk harvest, and their biomass was tested as feedstock for electricity production in cubic two-chamber microbial fuel cells (MFCs) at 37°C. The anode inoculum was anaerobic consortium from a municipal sewage sludge digester, enriched separately for the two microalgal biomass feedstocks. After repeated subculturing of the two anaerobic enrichments, the maximum power density obtained in MFCs was higher from C. vulgaris (15.0 vs. 5.3 mW m−2) while power generation was more sustained from D. tertiolecta (13 vs. 9.8 J g-1 volatile solids). Anolytes of algal biomass-fed MFCs also contained substantial levels of butanol (8.7–16 mM with C. vulgaris and 2.5–7.0 mM with D. tertiolecta), which represents an additional form of utilizable energy. Carryover of salts from the marine D. tertiolecta biomass slurry resulted in gradual precipitation of Ca and Mg phosphates on the cathode side of the MFC. Polymerase chain reaction-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis profiling and sequencing of bacterial communities demonstrated the presence of Wolinella succinogenes and Bacteroides and Synergistes spp. as well as numerous unknown bacteria in both enrichments. The D. tertiolecta enriched consortium contained also Geovibrio thiophilus and Desulfovibrio spp. Thus, the results indicate potential for combining fermentation and anaerobic respiration for bioenergy production from photosynthetic biomass.


Butanol Electricity Chlorella vulgaris Dunaliella tertiolecta Microalgal biomass Microbial fuel cell 



We thank Christopher J. Hulatt and David N. Thomas, School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, for providing the algal biomass samples. This research was funded by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Finland Distinguished Professor Programme, 402/06).

Supplementary material

12155_2012_9186_MOESM1_ESM.doc (673 kb)
Fig. S1 Schematic diagram (A) and photograph (B) of the two-chamber MFC configuration used in this study ( (DOC 673 kb)
12155_2012_9186_MOESM2_ESM.doc (60 kb)
Fig. S2 Sum of volatile fatty acids (VFAs) and alcohols in the end of the six enrichment steps with C. vulgaris-fed MFCs marked in darker grey and D. tertiolecta-fed MFCs with paler grey (A) and as a time series during the electricity production assay for an MFC with C. vulgaris and U-C (filled diamonds), with D. tertiolecta and U-D (filled squares), with pre-digested D. tertiolecta and U-D (filled triagnles), with glucose and U-C (error marks), and with glucose and U-D (empty circles) (B). (DOC 59 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aino-Maija Lakaniemi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Olli H. Tuovinen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jaakko A. Puhakka
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Chemistry and BioengineeringTampere University of TechnologyTampereFinland
  2. 2.Department of MicrobiologyOhio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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