The use of mixed cultures to convert waste biomass into medium chain fatty acids, precursors for renewable fuels or chemicals, is a promising route. To convert waste biomass into medium chain fatty acids, an external electron donor in the form of hydrogen or ethanol needs to be added. This study investigated whether the cathode of a bioelectrochemical system can be used as the electron donor for the conversion of acetate into medium chain fatty acids. We show that medium chain fatty acids were produced in a bioelectrochemical system at -0.9 V vs. NHE cathode potential, without addition of an external mediator. Caproate, butyrate and smaller fractions of caprylate were the main products formed from acetate. In-situ produced hydrogen was likely involved as an electron donor for the reduction of acetate. Electron and carbon balances revealed that 45% of the electrons in electric current and acetate, and 31% of the carbon from acetate were recovered in the formed products. This study showed for the first time production of medium chain fatty acids caproate and caprylate from acetate at the cathode of bioelectrochemical systems, and offers new opportunities for application of bioelectrochemical systems.
- microbial electrolysis cells