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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Cultivating electroactive microbes-from field to bench.

  • Author(s): Yee, Mon Oo;
  • Deutzmann, Joerg;
  • Spormann, Alfred;
  • Rotaru, Amelia-Elena
  • et al.

Electromicrobiology is an emerging field investigating and exploiting the interaction of microorganisms with insoluble electron donors or acceptors. Some of the most recently categorized electroactive microorganisms became of interest to sustainable bioengineering practices. However, laboratories worldwide typically maintain electroactive microorganisms on soluble substrates, which often leads to a decrease or loss of the ability to effectively exchange electrons with solid electrode surfaces. In order to develop future sustainable technologies, we cannot rely solely on existing lab-isolates. Therefore, we must develop isolation strategies for environmental strains with electroactive properties superior to strains in culture collections. In this article, we provide an overview of the studies that isolated or enriched electroactive microorganisms from the environment using an anode as the sole electron acceptor (electricity-generating microorganisms) or a cathode as the sole electron donor (electricity-consuming microorganisms). Next, we recommend a selective strategy for the isolation of electroactive microorganisms. Furthermore, we provide a practical guide for setting up electrochemical reactors and highlight crucial electrochemical techniques to determine electroactivity and the mode of electron transfer in novel organisms.

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