Methane is a potent greenhouse gas which can be converted by certain micro-organisms into other, less harmful gases such as CO2. When converting methane, some single-celled microorganisms (namely: 'Candidatus Methanoperedens') produce electricity. The combination of these two useful properties makes studying this type of microorganisms worthwhile.
The project Biogas to bioenergy: how anaerobic methanotrophic archaea convert methane into electricity investigates how these micro-organisms generate electricity, and how we can apply this quality for electricity production and for reducing biogas and methane emissions from e.g. water treatment plants.
In the first part of the project, the Ca. Methanoperedens microorganisms will be isolated in an axenic culture (i.e. where no other organisms occur). With the help of novel and innovative culturing technology, this is for the first time within reach of the researchers investigating these microbes and would therefore be a break-through in the field. It will allow us to learn more about the fundamental process of electricity production by these single-cell organisms.
The second part of the project examines the challenges and limitations of electricity production by these microorganisms. This includes the study of the interaction of two types of anaerobic microbes (microbes that live in environments without oxygen): ammonium oxidizing bacteria (anammox) and the Ca. Methanoperedens . This will help demonstrate how these two microorganisms can be co-cultured in bioelectrochemical systems, for future smart electricity generation from wastewater containing both ammonium and methane as pollutants.
Picture by Martijn Wissink