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Advances in Applied Microbiology
Vol. 105, 2018, 51-86

Electrochemical Bioreactor Technology for Biocatalysis and Microbial Electrosynthesis

Clifford Morrison, Elizabeth Heitmann, William Armiger, David Dodds, Mattheos Koffas

Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, United States.


Two seemingly distinct fields, industrial biocatalysis and microbial electrosynthesis, can be viewed together through the lens of electrochemical bioreactor technology in order to highlight the challenges that exist in creating a versatile platform technology for use in chemical and biological applications. Industrial biocatalysis applications requiring NAD(P)H to perform redox transformations often necessitate convoluted coupled-enzyme regeneration systems to regenerate reduced cofactor, NAD(P)H from oxidized cofactor, NAD(P). Renewed interest in continuously recycling the cofactor via electrochemical reduction is motivated by the low cost of performing electrochemical reactions, easy monitoring of the reaction progress, and straightforward product recovery. However, electrochemical cofactor regeneration methods invariably produce adventitious reduced cofactor side products which result in unproductive loss of input NAD(P). Microbial electrosynthesis is a form of microbially driven catalysis in which electricity is supplied to living microorganisms for the production of industrially relevant chemical products at higher carbon efficiencies and yields compared with traditional, nonelectrically driven, fermentations. The fundamental biochemistry of these organisms as related to selected biochemical redox processes will be explored in order to highlight opportunities to devise strategies for taking advantage of these biochemical processes in engineered systems.

Keywords: Applied microbiology, Biocatalysis, Electrochemical bioreactors, Electrochemical cofactor regeneration, Industrial biotechnology, Microbial electrosynthesis, NAD(P)H.

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