Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Bio-Hydrogen from waste in two steps

Environmental biotechnologies producing renewable hydrogen (H2) from organic waste streams (OWS) combine sustainable waste management with pollution control and the generation of a valuable clean energy. By coupling Dark Fermentation (DF) and Microbial Electrochemical Cells (MEC) processes, OWS can be optimally converted to H2 making the overall process suitable for up scaling and industrially viable.
Bio-Hydrogen from waste in two steps
Dark fermentation of organic waste is a well-studied technology that oxidises the organic matter to H2 and metabolic end-products. MEC technology can use these end-products to generate additional H2. Therefore, combining DF with MEC in a two-step process results in an optimal and complete use of OWS, with an added bonus of energy recovery and efficient removal of pollutants.

The aim of the WASTE2BIOHY (Sustainable hydrogen production from waste via two-stage bioconversion process: an eco-biotechnological approach) project was to investigate the microbial communities involved in the conversion of organic matter to energy. Researchers determined first which types of organic wastes were suitable for hydrogen production and then how to control mixed culture bioprocesses in DF and MECs.

The results showed that several organic wastes were suitable for successful and efficient production of H2. The data were used to create a mathematical model for predicting and describing the hydrogen production potential from any types of wastewaters. This provides a powerful tool for rapidly evaluating the potential of an effluent to generate H2, enabling the DF process to become truly viable in an industrial context.

In addition, different natural microbial communities were evaluated as inocula and some were selected and characterised for their high efficiency to generate H2 in both DF and MEC processes. Advanced statistical multivariate analysis of the metagenomics data of the initial and final microbial community showed strong correlations between the origin of the inoculum, the final structure of the fermentative communities and their metabolic behaviour.

This information provided valuable and deep insights into which microbial criteria can be used to accurately predict microbial metabolic pathways. Innovative procedures were also proposed to select specific microbial communities for their highly efficient production of H2 and to prevent the growth of hydrogen consuming microorganisms. Particular attention was given to halophilic communities, since many OW streams contain high levels of salts, such as table olive brine processing wastewaters, making them difficult to treat using convention biological approaches.

Finally, WASTE2BIOHY developed new practical methods for the control of the metabolism of microbial communities to further optimize both DF and MEC processes on real organic waste. The development of these mixed culture bioprocesses allows Europe to become a leading player in the near future in the field of environmental biotechnologies for biological hydrogen generation.

Related information


Biohydrogen, dark fermentation, organic waste streams, microbial electrochemical cells, WASTE2BIOHY
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