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International Journal of Hydrogen Energy
Vol. 42 (3), 2017, Pages: 1609–1621

Coupling dark fermentation and microbial electrolysis to enhance bio-hydrogen production from agro-industrial wastewaters and by-products in a bio-refinery framework

Antonella Marone Olga R. Ayala-Campos, Eric Trably, Alessandro A. Carmona-Martínez, Roman Moscoviz, Eric Latrille, Jean-Philippe Steyer, Víctor Alcaraz-Gonzalez, Nicolas Bernet

LBE, INRA, 102 Avenue des Étangs, 11100, Narbonne, France.


The aim of this work is to evaluate biohydrogen production from agro-industrial wastewaters and by-products, by combining dark fermentation and microbial electrolysis in a two-step cascade process. Such coupling of both technologies constitutes a technological building block within a concept of environmental biorefinery where sustainable production of renewable energy is expected.

Six different wastewaters and industrial by-products coming from cheese, fruit juice, paper, sugar, fruit processing and spirits factories were evaluated for the feasibility of hydrogen production in a two-step process. The overall hydrogen production when coupling dark fermentation and microbial electrolysis was increased up to 13 times when compared to fermentation alone, achieving a maximum overall hydrogen yield of 1608.6 ± 266.2 mLH2/gCODconsumed and a maximum of 78.5 ± 5.7% of COD removal.

These results show that dark fermentation coupled with microbial electrolysis is a highly promising option to maximize the conversion of agro-industrial wastewaters and by-products into bio-hydrogen.

Graphical abstract

Keywords: Biohydrogen; Dark fermentation (DF); Microbial electrolysis cell (MEC); Agro-industrial wastewaters and by-products; Two-stage process.

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