Effect of n-Caproate Concentration on Chain Elongation and Competing Processes

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Chain elongation is an open-culture fermentation process that facilitates conversion of organic residues with an additional electron donor, such as ethanol, into valuable n-caproate. Open-culture processes are catalyzed by an undefined consortium of microorganisms which typically also bring undesired (competing) processes. Inhibition of competing processes, such as syntrophic ethanol oxidation, will lead to a more selective n-caproate production process. In this study, we investigated the effect of n-caproate concentration on the specific activity of chain elongation and competing processes using batch inhibition assays. With "synthetic medium sludge" (originally operating at 3.4 g/L n-caproate), syntrophic ethanol oxidation was proportionally inhibited by n-caproate until 45% inhibition at 20 g/L n-caproate. Hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis was for 58% inhibited at 20 g/L n-caproate. Chain elongation of volatile fatty acids (volatile fatty acid upgrading; the desired process), was completely inhibited at 20 g/L n-caproate with all tested sludge types. "Adapted sludge" (operating at 23.2 g/L n-caproate) showed a 10 times higher volatile fatty acid upgrading activity at 15 g/L n-caproate compared to "nonadapted sludge" (operating at 7.1 g/L n-caproate). This shows that open cultures do adapt to perform chain elongation at high n-caproate concentrations which likely inhibits syntrophic ethanol oxidation through hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis. As such, we provide supporting evidence that the formation of n-caproate inhibits syntrophic ethanol oxidation which leads to a more selective medium chain fatty acid production process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7499-7506
JournalACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jun 2018


  • Adapted sludge
  • Chain elongation
  • Competing processes
  • Inhibition
  • n-Caproate


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