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Understanding the Impact of Flow Rate and Recycle on the Conversion of a Complex Biorefinery Stream Using a Flow-through Microbial Electrolysis Cell

by Alex J Lewis, Abhijeet P Borole
Publication Type
Journal Name
Biochemical Engineering Journal
Publication Date
Page Numbers
95 to 104
Dec 15

tThe effect of flow rate and recycle on the conversion of a biomass-derived pyrolysis aqueous phase in amicrobial electrolysis cell (MEC) were investigated to demonstrate production of renewable hydrogen inbiorefinery. A continuous MEC operation was investigated under one-pass and recycle conditions usingthe complex, biomass-derived, fermentable, mixed substrate feed at a constant concentration of 0.026 g/L,while testing flow rates ranging from 0.19 to 3.6 mL/min. This corresponds to an organic loading rate (OLR)of 0.54–10 g/L-day. Mass transfer issues observed at low flow rates were alleviated using high flow rates.Increasing the flow rate to 3.6 mL/min (3.7 min HRT) during one-pass operation increased the hydrogenproductivity 3-fold, but anode conversion efficiency (ACE) decreased from 57.9% to 9.9%. Recycle of theanode liquid helped to alleviate kinetic limitations and the ACE increased by 1.8-fold and the hydrogenproductivity by 1.2-fold compared to the one-pass condition at the flow rate of 3.6 mL/min (10 g/L-dOLR). High COD removal was also achieved under recycle conditions, reaching 74.2 ± 1.1%, with hydrogenproduction rate of 2.92 ± 0.51 L/L-day. This study demonstrates the advantages of combining faster flowrates with a recycle process to improve rate of hydrogen production from a switchgrass-derived streamin the biorefinery.