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Chemical Engineering Journal
Volume 416, 2021, 129068

Intensification and optimization of continuous hydrogen production by dark fermentation in a new design liquid/gas hollow fiber membrane bioreactor

Marie Renaudiea,b, Valentin Cliona,b, Christine Dumasa, Stéphane Vuilleumierc, Barbara Ernsta

Université de Strasbourg, CNRS, IPHC, UMR 7178, 25 rue Becquerel 67087 Strasbourg Cedex 2, France.


A liquid/gas membrane bioreactor (L/G MBR) was developed to intensify the dark fermentation process. A hollow fiber membrane module was used to combine biohydrogen production, in situ liquid–gas separation and hydrogen producing bacteria retention in a single unit. The L/G MBR was seeded once and did not require further microbial input, as consistent average hydrogen yield of 0.97 ± 0.09 mol-H2/added mol-glucose and hydrogen production rate of 106.5 ± 10.6 mL-H2/L-medium/h were reached over a year. Different biogas extraction strategies showed that efficient in situ H2 extraction is possible without sweeping gas in the lumen of the fibers, thus facilitating H2 purification in an industrial setting. Modelling predicted an optimal hydrogen yield of 1.2 mol/mol-glucose added for a glucose concentration in the feed of 13.1 g/L, close to experimental hydraulic retention time of 8–10 h with an organic loading rate of 1.4 g-glucose/L-medium/h. No washout of hydrogen-producing bacteria was observed at low HRT (2 h), suggesting the possibility of further hydrogen production rate enhancement using an optimized organic loading rate. Acetate and butyrate were the main metabolites identified. Clostridium and Enterobacter dominated in the liquid outlet. The relative abundance of Clostridium pasteurianum increased with glucose concentration in the bioreactor, as opposed to Clostridium beijerinckii which was more abundant at low glucose concentration. The original hollow fiber L/G MBR configuration enabled the testing and selection of fermentation strategies that greatly simplified the implementation of the dark fermentation process by addressing its key operational bottlenecks. Indeed, the L/G membrane surface served as a support and reservoir for the hydrogen producing bacteria across a wide range of HRT conditions.

Keywords: Membrane bioreactor, Hydrogen, Dark fermentation, Continuous fermentation strategies, Gas extraction, Hydraulic retention time.

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