Development of an effective chain elongation process from acidified food waste and ethanol into n-Caproate

Mark Roghair, Yuchen Liu, David P.B.T.B. Strik*, Ruud A. Weusthuis, Marieke E. Bruins, Cees J.N. Buisman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), such as n-caproate, are potential valuable platform chemicals. MCFAs can be produced from low-grade organic residues by anaerobic reactor microbiomes through two subsequent biological processes: hydrolysis combined with acidogenesis and chain elongation. Continuous chain elongation with organic residues becomes effective when the targeted MCFA(s) are produced at high concentrations and rates, while excessive ethanol oxidation and base consumption are limited. The objective of this study was to develop an effective continuous chain elongation process with hydrolyzed and acidified food waste and additional ethanol. Results: We fed acidified food waste (AFW) and ethanol to an anaerobic reactor while operating the reactor at long (4 d) and at short (1 d) hydraulic retention time (HRT). At long HRT, n-caproate was continuously produced (5.5 g/L/d) at an average concentration of 23.4 g/L. The highest n-caproate concentration was 25.7 g/L which is the highest reported n-caproate concentration in a chain elongation process to date. Compared to short HRT (7.1 g/L n-caproate at 5.6 g/L/d), long HRT resulted in 6.2 times less excessive ethanol oxidation. This led to a two times lower ethanol consumption and a two times lower base consumption per produced MCFA at long HRT compared to short HRT. Conclusions: Chain elongation from AFW and ethanol is more effective at long HRT than at short HRT not only because it results in a higher concentration of MCFAs but also because it leads to a more efficient use of ethanol and base. The HRT did not influence the n-caproate production rate. The obtained n-caproate concentration is more than twice as high as the maximum solubility of n-caproic acid in water which is beneficial for its separation from the fermentation broth. This study does not only set the record on the highest n-caproate concentration observed in a chain elongation process to date, it notably demonstrates that such high concentrations can be obtained from AFW under practical circumstances in a continuous process.
Original languageEnglish
Article number50
JournalFrontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2018


  • Caproate
  • Chain elongation
  • Ethanol
  • Food waste
  • HRT
  • Sludge
  • Sodium hydroxide

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