Microbially Mediated Electrosynthesis Processes

  • Mohita Sharma
  • Priyangshu M. Sarma


As stated by Lovley (2008), an environmental niche of any given microorganism can make it function as electrode reducer or an electrode oxidizer, just as microorganisms can function either as iron reducer or iron acceptor depending on environmental conditions. Electron transfer on microbial-electrode interfaces is a result of evolutionary capabilities of some microbes to perform effective extracellular exchange with insoluble minerals and related natural electron acceptors and donors (Lovley 2012). BES technology is capable of converting chemical energy of organic wastes including low-strength wastewaters and lignocellulosic biomass into electricity or other value added products. All BES consist of an anode where the oxidation reaction occurs and a cathode for the reductions, and at least one of these reactions is microbially catalyzed, hence classified as microbial bioanode and biocathode respectively (Rabaey et al. 2010a). In bioanodes, bacteria called exoelectrogens oxidize organic or inorganic matter anaerobically to discharge electrons, which are transferred through the electron transport chain to the electrode directly or indirectly. In biocathodes, bacteria called electrotrophs receive the electrons from the cathode directly or via some redox mediators to reduce compounds like organics, carbon dioxide, sulphate or nitrate (Gregory et al. 2004; Rabaey et al. 2010a). As compared to conventional fuel cells, the BES operates under relatively mild conditions of temperature and pressure, using a wide variety of organic substrates and mostly without using expensive precious metals as catalysts. BES presents a wide number of advantages when compared to classical routes towards sustainable energy production like generation of electric power, chemical or ecological goods from renewable and non-carbon fuel sources. As a consequence, their applicability is not restricted to their geographic location, thus promoting resource independency, accessibility, decentralization, self-sufficiency, and environmentally safe practices. Electroactive microorganisms have characteristic electron exchange properties with conducting materials (Lovley 2008). For this electron exchange, either they release some redox mediators that facilitate indirect electron transfer by acting as redox shuttles or they directly take part in electron transfer through c-type cytochromes, by production of conductive exopolymeric materials or by forming conductive biofilm matrix (Fig. 22.1).


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Copyright information

© Capital Publishing Company, New Delhi, India 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.TERI UniversityNew DelhiIndia
  2. 2.University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  3. 3.New DelhiIndia

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