Microbial catalysis of carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction to multi-carbon compounds at the cathode is a highly attractive application of microbial electrosynthesis (MES).
The microbes reduce CO2 by either taking the electrons or reducing the equivalents produced at the cathode. While using gaseous CO2 as the carbon source, the biological reduction process depends on the dissolution and mass transfer of CO2 in the electrolyte. In order to deal with this issue, a gas diffusion electrode (GDE) was investigated by feeding CO2 through the GDE into the MES reactor for its reduction at the biocathode. A combination of the catalyst layer (porous activated carbon and Teflon binder) and the hydrophobic gas diffusion layer (GDL) creates a three-phase interface at the electrode.
So, CO2 and reducing equivalents will be available to the biocatalyst on the cathode surface. An enriched inoculum consisting of acetogenic bacteria, prepared from an anaerobic sludge, was used as a biocatalyst. The cathode potential was maintained at −1.1 V vs Ag/AgCl to facilitate direct and/or hydrogen-mediated CO2 reduction. Bioelectrochemical CO2 reduction mainly produced acetate but also extended the products to ethanol and butyrate. Average acetate production rates of 32 and 61 mg/L/day, respectively, with 20 and 80 % CO2 gas mixture feed were achieved with 10 cm2 of GDE. The maximum acetate production rate remained 238 mg/L/day for 20 % CO2 gas mixture.
In conclusion, a gas diffusion biocathode supported bioelectrochemical CO2 reduction with enhanced mass transfer rate at continuous supply of gaseous CO2.