Improving polyhydroxyalkanoates production in phototrophic mixed cultures by optimizing accumulator reactor operating conditions

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Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) production with phototrophic mixed cultures (PMCs) has been recently proposed. These cultures can be selected under the permanent presence of carbon and the PHA production can be enhanced in subsequent accumulation steps. To optimize the PHA production in accumulator reactors, this work evaluated the impact of 1) initial acetate concentration, 2) light intensity, 3) removal of residual nitrogen on the culture performance. Results indicate that low acetate concentration (<30 CmM) and specific light intensities around 20 W/gX are optimal operating conditions that lead to high polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) storage yields (0.83 ± 0.07 Cmol-PHB/Cmol-Acet) and specific PHB production rates of 2.21 ± 0.07 Cmol-PHB/Cmol X d. This rate is three times higher than previously registered in non-optimized accumulation tests and enabled a PHA content increase from 15 to 30% in <4 h. Also, it was shown for the first time, the capability of a PMC to use a real waste, fermented cheese whey, to produce PHA with a hydroxyvalerate (HV) content of 12%. These results confirm that fermented wastes can be used as substrates for PHA production with PMCs and that the energy levels in sunlight that lead to specific light intensities from 10 to 20 W/gX are sufficient to drive phototrophic PHA production processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1085-1092
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Biological Macromolecules
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019



  • Fermented cheese whey (FCW)
  • Phototrophic mixed cultures (PMCs)
  • Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA)
  • Purple phototrophic bacteria (PPB)
  • Volatile fatty acids (VFAs)

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