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Validation of effective roles of non-electroactive microbes on recalcitrant contaminant degradation in bioelectrochemical systems

Xu, Yingfeng, Ge, Zhipeng, Zhang, Xueqin, Feng, Huajun, Ying, Xianbin, Huang, Baocheng, Shen, Dongsheng, Wang, Meizhen, Zhou, Yuyang, Wang, Yanfeng, Yu, Hanqing
Environmental pollution 2019 v.249 pp. 794-800
biodegradation, bioelectrochemistry, biofilm, electrical treatment, electricity, electrodes, metabolism, microbial communities, microorganisms, oxidation, plankton, waste treatment, wastes
Bioelectrochemical systems (BESs) have been widely investigated for recalcitrant waste treatment mainly because of their waste removal effectiveness. Electroactive microbes (EMs) have long been thought to contribute to the high effectiveness by interacting with electrodes via electron chains. However, this work demonstrated the dispensable role of EMs for enhanced recalcitrant contamination degradation in BESs. We revealed enhanced p-fluoronitrobenzene (p-FNB) degradation in a BES by observing a defluorination efficiency that was three times higher than that in biodegradation or electrochemical processes. Such an improvement was achieved by the collaborative roles of electrode biofilms and planktonic microbes, as their individual contributions to p-FNB degradation were found to be similarly stimulated by electricity. However, no bioelectrochemical activity was found in either the electrode biofilms or the planktonic microbes during stimulated p-FNB degradation; because no biocatalytically reductive or oxidative turnovers were observed on cyclic voltammetry curves. The non-involvement of EMs was further proven by the similar microbial community evolution for biofilms and planktonic microbes. In summary, we proposed a mechanism for indirect electrical stimulation of microbial metabolism by electrochemically generating the active mediator p-fluoroaniline (p-FA) and further degradation by a sequential combination of electrochemical p-FNB reduction and biological p-FA oxidation by non-EMs.