Coupling electrochemical ammonia extraction and cultivation of methane oxidizing bacteria for production of microbial protein

Benyamin Khoshnevisan, Mark Dodds, Panagiotis Tsapekos, Elena Torresi, Barth F. Smets, Irini Angelidaki, Yifeng Zhang, Borja Valverde-Pérez*

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Conventional treatment of residual resources relies on nutrient removal to limit pollution. Recently, nutrient recovery technologies have been proposed as more environmentally and energetically efficient strategies. Nevertheless, the upcycling of recovered resources is typically limited by their quality or purity. Specifically, nitrogen extracted from residual streams, such as anaerobic digestion (AD) effluents and wastewaters, could support microbial protein production. In this context, this study was performed as a proof-of-concept to combine nitrogen recovery via electrochemical reactors with the production of high quality microbial protein via cultivation of methanotrophs. Two types of AD effluents, i.e., cattle manure and organic fraction of municipal solid waste, and urine were tested to investigate the nitrogen extraction efficiency. The results showed that 31–51% of the nitrogen could be recovered free of trace chemicals from residual streams depending on the substrate and voltage used. Based on the results achieved, higher nitrogen concentration in the residual streams resulted in higher nitrogen flux between anodic and cathodic chambers. Results showed that the extraction process has an energy demand of 9.97 (±0.7) - 14.44 (±1.19) kWh/kg-N, depending on the substrate and operating conditions. Furthermore, a mixed-culture of methanotrophic bacteria could grow well with the extracted nitrogen producing a total dry weight of 0.49 ± 0.01 g/L. Produced biomass contained a wide range of essential amino acids making it comparable with conventional protein sources.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number110560
    JournalJournal of Environmental Management
    Number of pages9
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


    • Electrochemical cells
    • Methane oxidizing bacteria
    • Microbial protein
    • Nutrient recovery


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