A defined co-culture of Geobacter sulfurreducens and Escherichia coli in a membrane-less microbial fuel cell

Nicholas Bourdakos, Enrico Marsili, Radhakrishnan Mahadevan

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


Wastewater-fed microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are a promising technology to treat low-organic carbon wastewater and recover part of the chemical energy in wastewater as electrical power. However, the interactions between electrochemically active and fermentative microorganisms cannot be easily studied in wastewater-fed MFCs because of their complex microbial communities. Defined co-culture MFCs provide a detailed understanding of such interactions. In this study, we characterize the extracellular metabolites in laboratory-scale membrane-less MFCs inoculated with Geobacter sulfurreducens and Escherichia coli co-culture and compare them with pure culture MFCs. G. sulfurreducens MFCs are sparged to maintain anaerobic conditions, while co-culture MFCs rely on E. coli for oxygen removal. G. sulfurreducens MFCs have a power output of 128mWm-2, compared to 63mWm-2 from the co-culture MFCs. Analysis of metabolites shows that succinate production in co-culture MFCs decreases current production by G. sulfurreducens and that the removal of succinate is responsible for the increased current density in the late co-culture MFCs. Interestingly, pH adjustment is not required for co-culture MFCs but a base addition is necessary for E. coli MFCs and cultures in vials. Our results show that defined co-culture MFCs provide clear insights into metabolic interactions among bacteria while maintaining a low operational complexity. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2014;111: 709-718.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)709-718
Number of pages10
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Co-culture MFC
  • Escherichia coli
  • Geobacter sulfurreducens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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