Methanobacterium Dominates Biocathodic Archaeal Communities in Methanogenic Microbial Electrolysis Cells

Michael Siegert, Matthew D. Yates, Alfred M. Spormann, Bruce E. Logan

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Methane is the primary end product from cathodic current in microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) in the absence of methanogenic inhibitors, but little is known about the archaeal communities that develop in these systems. MECs containing cathodes made from different materials (carbon brushes, or plain graphite blocks or blocks coated with carbon black and platinum, stainless steel, nickel, ferrihydrite, magnetite, iron sulfide, or molybdenum disulfide) were inoculated with anaerobic digester sludge and acclimated at a set potential of -600 mV (versus a standard hydrogen electrode). The archaeal communities on all cathodes, except those coated with platinum, were predominated by Methanobacterium (median 97% of archaea). Cathodes with platinum contained mainly archaea most similar to Methanobrevibacter. Neither of these methanogens were abundant (<0.1% of archaea) in the inoculum, and therefore their high abundance on the cathode resulted from selective enrichment. In contrast, bacterial communities on the cathode were more diverse, containing primarily δ-Proteobacteria (41% of bacteria). The lack of a consistent bacterial genus on the cathodes indicated that there was no similarly selective enrichment of bacteria on the cathode. These results suggest that the genus Methanobacterium was primarily responsible for methane production in MECs when cathodes lack efficient catalysts for hydrogen gas evolution. (Figure Presented).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1668-1676
Number of pages9
JournalACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 6 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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