Cathodic methanogenesis is a promising method for accelerating and stabilising bioenergy recovery in anaerobic processes. The change in composition of microbial (especially methanogenic) communities in response to an applied potential—and especially the associated pH gradient—is critical for achieving this goal, but is not well understood in cathodic biofilms. We found here that the pH-polarised region in the 2 mm surrounding the cathode ranged from 6.9 to 10.1, as determined using a pH microsensor; this substantially affected methane production rate as well as microbial community structure. Miseq sequencing data of a highly conserved region of the mcrA gene revealed a dramatic variation in alpha diversity of methanogens concentrated in electrode biofilms under the applied potential, and confirmed that the dominant microbes at the cathode were hydrogenotrophic methanogens (mostly basophilic Methanobacterium alcaliphilum). These results indicate that regional pH variation in the microenvironment surrounding the electrode is an ecological niche enriched with Methanobacterium.
Water Research – Elsevier
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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