Microbial reduction of organosulfur compounds at cathodes in bioelectrochemical systems

Margo Elzinga, D. Liu, Jan Klok, Pawel Roman, C.J.N. Buisman, A. ter Heijne*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Organosulfur compounds, present in e.g. the pulp and paper industry, biogas and natural gas, need to be removed as they potentially affect human health and harm the environment. The treatment of organosulfur compounds is a challenge, as an economically feasible technology is lacking. In this study, we demonstrate that organosulfur compounds can be degraded to sulfide in bioelectrochemical systems (BESs). Methanethiol, ethanethiol, propanethiol and dimethyl disulfide were supplied separately to the biocathodes of BESs, which were controlled at a constant current density of 2 A/m2 and 4 A/m2. The decrease of methanethiol in the gas phase was correlated to the increase of dissolved sulfide in the liquid phase. A sulfur recovery, as sulfide, of 64% was found over 5 days with an addition of 0.1 ​mM methanethiol. Sulfur recoveries over 22 days with a total organosulfur compound addition of 1.85 ​mM were 18% for methanethiol and ethanethiol, 17% for propanethiol and 22% for dimethyl disulfide. No sulfide was formed in electrochemical nor biological control experiments, demonstrating that both current and microorganisms are required for the conversion of organosulfur compounds. This new application of BES for degradation of organosulfur components may unlock alternative strategies for the abatement of anthropogenic organosulfur emissions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100009
JournalEnvironmental Science and Ecotechnology
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Thiols
  • Organosulfur compounds
  • Bioelectrochemical system

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