Increased carbon dioxide reduction to acetate in a microbial electrosynthesis reactor with a reduced graphene oxide-coated copper foam composite cathode

Nabin Aryal, Lulu Wan, Marc Hvid Overgaard, Adam C. Stoot, Yiming Chen, Pier Luc Tremblay, Tian Zhang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Microbial electrosynthesis is a bioprocess where microbes reduce CO 2 into multicarbon chemicals with electrons derived from the cathode of a bioelectrochemical reactor. Developing a highly productive microbial electrosynthesis reactor requires excellent electrical connection between the electrochemical setup, the cathode, and the microbes. Copper is a highly conductive cathode material widely employed in electrochemical apparatuses. However, the antimicrobial properties of copper limit its usage for bioelectrochemistry. Here, biocompatible reduced graphene oxide coated on copper foam is synthesized as a cathode material for the microbial electrosynthesis of acetate from CO 2 . Dense and electroactive Sporomusa ovata biofilms form on the surface of reduced graphene oxide-coated copper foam electrodes while only scattered and damaged cells cover uncoated copper electrodes. Besides the formation of metabolically-active biofilms, acetate production rate from CO 2 is 21.3 and 43.5-fold higher with this novel composite cathode compared with an uncoated copper foam cathode and a reversed cathode made of reduced graphene oxide foam coated with copper, respectively. The results demonstrate that reduced graphene oxide can be employed as a biocompatible and conductive buffer between microbes and bactericidal electrode materials with excellent electrochemical property to enable highly performant microbial electrosynthesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-93
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Biocatalyst
  • Cathode
  • Copper foam
  • Microbial electrosynthesis
  • Reduced graphene oxide

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