Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 90, Issue 3, pp 1179–1191 | Cite as

Spatiotemporal development of the bacterial community in a tubular longitudinal microbial fuel cell

  • Jung Rae Kim
  • Nelli J. Beecroft
  • John R. Varcoe
  • Richard M. Dinsdale
  • Alan J. Guwy
  • Robert C. T. Slade
  • Alfred Thumser
  • Claudio Avignone-Rossa
  • Giuliano C. PremierEmail author
Bioenergy and Biofuels


The spatiotemporal development of a bacterial community in an exoelectrogenic biofilm was investigated in sucrose-fed longitudinal tubular microbial fuel cell reactors, consisting of two serially connected modules. The proportional changes in the microbial community composition were assessed by polymerase chain reaction–denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) and DNA sequencing in order to relate them to the performance and stability of the bioelectrochemical system. The reproducibility of duplicated reactors, evaluated by cluster analysis and Jaccard’s coefficient, shows 80–90% similarity in species composition. Biofilm development through fed-batch start-up and subsequent stable continuous operation results in a population shift from γ-Proteobacteria- and Bacteroidetes- to Firmicutes-dominated communities, with other diverse species present at much lower relative proportions. DGGE patterns were analysed by range-weighted richness (Rr) and Pareto–Lorenz evenness distribution curves to investigate the evolution of the bacterial community. The first modules shifted from dominance by species closely related to Bacteroides graminisolvens, Raoultella ornithinolytica and Klebsiella sp. BM21 at the start of continuous-mode operation to a community dominated by Paludibacter propionicigenes-, Lactococcus sp.-, Pantoea agglomerans- and Klebsiella oxytoca-related species with stable power generation (6.0 W/m3) at day 97. Operational strategies that consider the dynamics of the population will provide useful parameters for evaluating system performance in the practical application of microbial fuel cells.


Microbial fuel cell (MFC) Electricity generation DGGE Identification Semi-quantitative microbial community analysis 



This research was funded by the Research Councils UK (RCUK) Energy Programme, SUPERGEN Biological Fuel Cell project (EP/D047943/1) supported by grant 68-3A75-3-150. The Energy Programme is an RCUK cross-council initiative led by EPSRC and contributed to by ESRC, NERC, BBSRC and STFC.

Supplementary material

253_2011_3181_MOESM1_ESM.doc (2.3 mb)
ESM 1 (DOC 2.33 MB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jung Rae Kim
    • 1
  • Nelli J. Beecroft
    • 3
  • John R. Varcoe
    • 5
  • Richard M. Dinsdale
    • 2
  • Alan J. Guwy
    • 2
  • Robert C. T. Slade
    • 5
  • Alfred Thumser
    • 4
  • Claudio Avignone-Rossa
    • 3
  • Giuliano C. Premier
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Sustainable Environment Research Centre (SERC), Faculty of Advanced TechnologyUniversity of GlamorganPontypriddUK
  2. 2.Sustainable Environment Research Centre (SERC), Faculty of Health, Sport and ScienceUniversity of GlamorganPontypriddUK
  3. 3.Microbial SciencesUniversity of SurreyGuildfordUK
  4. 4.Biochemical SciencesUniversity of SurreyGuildfordUK
  5. 5.Chemical SciencesUniversity of SurreyGuildfordUK

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