Biological processes consist of redox processes where both an electron donor and an electron acceptor are required. The former is generally organic matter which, in heterotrophic processes, serves as carbon and energy source to drive the biological conversions. However, there are several scenarios where, for different reasons, organic matter is not available or feasible to act as electron donor and reductive processes are necessary (i.e. high strength sulfate wastewaters, nitrate-polluted groundwaters, halogenated spills …). In addition to that, there are other scenarios where a reductive process can result in a high added value product such as methane or organic acids from CO2. In both cases, an efficient electron donor is required.
Bioelectrochemical systems have opened a new range of different applications. Among them, microbial BES can provide reducing power for cathodic biological reduction processes. This reducing power can be directly used by microorganisms (microbial electrosynthesis) or can be converted to hydrogen, a preferred electron donor for most biological conversions.
We are currently working at lab-scale on the bioelectrochemical sulfate reduction from high loaded sulfate wastewaters in view of sulfur recovery, on designing a new process for biogas upgrading with bioelectrochemical hydrogen supply and, finally, we are focusing on the fundamental understanding the fundamentals of microbial electrosynthesis of organic acids from carbon dioxide.
We are collaborating with the BETA research group (Biodiversitat, Ecologia, Tecnologia i Gestió Ambiental) from UViC (www.uvic.es/showrecerca/132) in the field of biogas upgrading.