Biological hydrogen production using a membrane bioreactor

Sang Eun Oh, Prabha Iyer, Mary Ann Bruns, Bruce E. Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

180 Scopus citations


A cross-flow membrane was coupled to a chemostat to create an anaerobic membrane bioreactor (MBR) for biological hydrogen production. The reactor was fed glucose (10,000 mg/L) and inoculated with a soil inoculum heat-treated to kill non-spore-forming methanogens. Hydrogen gas was consistently produced at a concentration of 57-60% in the headspace under all conditions. When operated in chemostat mode (no flow through the membrane) at a hydraulic retention time (HRT) of 3.3 h, 90% of the glucose was removed, producing 2200 mg/L of cells and 500 mL/h of biogas. When operated in MBR mode, the solids retention time (SRT) was increased to SRT = 12 h producing a solids concentration in the reactor of 5800 mg/L. This SRT increased the overall glucose utilization (98%), the biogas production rate (640 mL/h), and the conversion efficiency of glucose-to-hydrogen from 22% (no MBR) to 25% (based on a maximum of 4 mol-H2/mol- glucose). When the SRT was increased from 5 h to 48 h, glucose utilization (99%) and biomass concentrations (8,800 ± 600 mg/L) both increased. However, the biogas production decreased (310 ± 40 mL/h) and the glucose-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency decreased from 37 ± 4% to 18 ± 3%. Sustained permeate flows through the membrane were in the range of 57 to 60 L/m2 h for three different membrane pore sizes (0.3, 0.5, and 0.8 μm). Most (93.7% to 99.3%) of the membrane resistance was due to internal fouling and the reversible cake resistance, and not the membrane itself. Regular backpulsing was essential for maintaining permeate flux through the membrane. Analysis of DNA sequences using ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis indicated bacteria were most closely related to members of Clostridiaceae and Flexibacteraceae, including Clostridium acidisoli CAC237756 (97%), Linmingia china AF481148 (97%), and Cytophaga sp. MDA2507 AF238333 (99%). No PCR amplification of 16S rRNA genes was obtained when archaea-specific primers were used.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-127
Number of pages9
JournalBiotechnology and bioengineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 5 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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