Haloalkaliphilic microorganisms assist sulfide removal in a microbial electrolysis cell

Gaofeng Ni*, Pebrianto Harnawan, Laura Seidel, Annemiek Ter Heijne, Tom Sleutels, Cees J.N. Buisman, Mark Dopson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Several industrial processes produce toxic sulfide containing streams that are often scrubbed using caustic solutions. An alternative, cost effective sulfide treatment method is bioelectrochemical sulfide removal. For the first time, a haloalkaliphilic sulfide-oxidizing microbial consortium was introduced to the anodic chamber of a microbial electrolysis cell operated at alkaline pH and with 1.0 M sodium ions. Under anode potential control, the highest sulfide removal rate was 2.16 mM/day and chemical analysis supported that the electrical current generation was from the sulfide oxidation. Biotic operation produced a maximum current density of 3625 mA/m 2 compared to 210 mA/m 2 while under abiotic operation. Furthermore, biotic electrical production was maintained for a longer period than for abiotic operation, potentially due to the passivation of the electrode by elemental sulfur during abiotic operation. The use of microorganisms reduced the energy input in this study compared to published electrochemical sulfide removal technologies. Sulfide-oxidizing populations dominated both the planktonic and electrode-attached communities with 16S rRNA gene sequences aligning within the genera Thioalkalivibrio, Thioalkalimicrobium, and Desulfurivibrio. The dominance of the Desulfurivibrio-like population on the anode surface offered evidence for the first haloalkaliphilic bacterium able to couple electrons from sulfide oxidation to extracellular electron transfer to the anode.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-204
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2019


  • 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing
  • Bioelectrochemical systems
  • Desulfurivibrio
  • Sulfides


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