The work aims to understand and improve the use of microbes as “catalysts” for the electrochemical conversion of CO2 and bioprocess residuals into valuable alcohols with high interest to the chemical and energy industry. The proposed research supports the transition from an oil-based to a bio-based economy, where industrial bioprocesses do not waste useful carbon but rather recover it as commodity chemicals and fuels. At the moment we know too little about the microbial mechanisms that produce alcohols with electrodes as the source of electrons, and the titers demonstrated are very low. To improve the yields and understand the mechanisms, an interdisciplinary approach is needed. Herein I will investigate under which conditions known and not-yet-known electroactive microbes can produce alcohols, the electron transfer pathways utilized, and which microbial synergies benefit the production. I will also investigate how the microbe-electrode relationship can be improved with the use of graphene-based electrodes which have not been tested for this purpose before. This is expected to boost the microbial electron consumption and the carbon conversion rate. After improving the microbial catalyst and the electrodes, these will be integrated into a model reactor, designed for improved energy efficiency. State-of-the-art practices from Industrial Biotechnology, Materials Engineering, and Electrochemistry are merged herein to advance towards implementation of novel biorefinery concepts.
The project is closed: 31/12/2019