Elucidating the microbial ecological mechanisms on the electro-fermentation of caproate production from acetate via ethanol-driven chain elongation

Shuanglan Cheng, Zhihong Liu, Cristiano Varrone, Aijuan Zhou, Zhangwei He, Houfen Li, Jiaguang Zhang, Wenzong Liu, Xiuping Yue

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Electro-fermentation (EF) is an attractive way to implement the chain elongation (CE) process, by controlling the fermentation environment and reducing the dosage of external electron donors (EDs). However, besides the coexistence performance of external EDs and electrode, applications of EF technology on the fermentation broth containing both EDs and electron acceptors during CE process, are all still limited. The current study investigated the contribution of EF to caproate production, under different acetate: ethanol ratios (RA/E). The effect of multiple EDs, both from ethanol and the bio-cathode, on caproate production, was also assessed. A proof-of-concept, based on experimental data, was presented for the EF-mediated ethanol-driven CE process. Experimental results showed that ethanol, together with the additional electron donors from the bio-cathode, was beneficial for the stable caproate production. The caproate concentration increased with the decrease of RA/E, while the bio-cathode further contributed to 10.7%–26.1 % increase of caproate concentration. Meanwhile, the hydrogen partial pressure tended to 0.10 ± 0.01 bar in all controlled EF reactors, thus favoring caproate production. This was attributed to the increased availability EDs, i.e., hydrogen and ethanol, generated by the electrode and electrochemically active bacteria (EAB), which might create multiple additional pathways to achieve caproate production. Molecular ecological networks analysis of the key microbiomes further revealed underlying cooperative relationships, beneficial to the chain elongation process. The genus Clostridium_sensu_stricto, as the dominant microbial community, was positively related to acetogens, EAB and fermenters.
Original languageEnglish
Article number111875
JournalEnvironmental Research
Issue number111875
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

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  • Bio-cathode
  • Caproate
  • Chain elongation
  • Electro-fermentation
  • Ethanol
  • Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs)


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