Innovative co-production of polyhydroxyalkanoates and methane from broken rice

Brojanigo Silvia, Alvarado-Morales Merlin, Basaglia Marina, Casella Sergio, Favaro Lorenzo*, Angelidaki Irini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Broken rice, a low-cost starchy residue of the rice industry, can be an interesting substrate to reduce the polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) production cost. However, since the most common PHAs-producing strains lack amylases, this waste must be firstly hydrolysed by additional commercial enzymes. In this work, the acidogenesis phase of the anaerobic digestion was exploited as efficient hydrolysis step to convert broken rice into volatile fatty acids (VFAs) to be used as PHAs carbon source by Cupriavidus necator DSM 545, one of the most promising PHAs-producing microbes. Broken rice, both non-hydrolysed and enzymatically hydrolysed, was processed in two continuous stirred tank reactors, at hydraulic retention times (HRT) of 5, 4 and, 3 days, to produce VFAs. The highest VFAs levels were obtained from non-hydrolysed broken rice, especially for the second replicates of each HRT, which was efficiently exploited for PHAs accumulation by C. necator DSM 545. PHAs contents were higher after 96 h of incubation and, noteworthy, reached the highest value of 0.95 g/L in the case of 4 days HRT without any chemicals supplementation, expect vitamins. Moreover, in view of a biorefinery approach, the residual solid fraction was used for methane production resulting in promising CH4 levels. Methane yields were very promising again for 4 days HRT. As such, the 4 days HRT was found to be a proper condition to obtain effluents with suitable properties for both PHAs accumulation and CH4 yield. In addition, these results demonstrate that broken rice could be efficiently processed into two valuable products without any costly enzymatic pre-treatment and pave the way for future biorefining approaches where this by-product can be converted in a cluster of added-value compounds. Techno-economical estimations are in progress to assess the feasibility of the entire process, in view of supporting the low-cost conversion of organic waste into valuable products.
Original languageEnglish
Article number153931
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Starchy organic waste
  • Broken rice
  • Cupriavidus necator DSM 545
  • Anaerobic digestion
  • Biorefinery


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