Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) production by a mixed microbial culture using sugar molasses: Effect of the influent substrate concentration on culture selection

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In Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) production processes using Mixed Microbial Culture (MMC), the success of the culture selection step determines, to a great extent, the PHA accumulation performance obtained in the final PHA production stage. In this study, the effect of the influent substrate concentration (30-60 Cmmol VFA/L) on the selection of a PHA-storing culture using a complex feedstock, fermented sugar molasses, was assessed. At 30 and 45 Cmmol VFA/L, substrate concentration impacted on the process kinetics through a substrate dependent kinetic limitation effect. However, further increasing the carbon substrate concentration to 60 Cmmol VFA/L, resulted in an unforeseen growth limitation effect associated with a micronutrient deficiency of the fermented feedstock (magnesium) and high operating pH. Struvite precipitation caused a nutrient limitation which prevented biomass concentration increase, thus causing the feast to famine length ratio to vary in the selection reactor, with subsequent impact on the selective pressure for PHA-storing organisms. A highly dynamic response of the selected population to transient conditions of feast to famine ratio, in the range of 0.21-1.1, was observed. Kinetic (limiting concentration of carbon source) and physiological (loss of internal growth limitation due to the shorter length of famine phase) effects, resulting from variation of the influent substrate concentration, were subsequently demonstrated in batch studies. The culture selected at an influent substrate concentration of 45 Cmmol VFA/L showed the best PHA-storing capacity since neither substrate concentration nor feast to famine ratio were limiting factors. This culture, highly enriched in PHA-storing organisms (88%), reached a maximum PHA content of 74.6%. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageUnknown
Pages (from-to)3419-3433
JournalWater Research
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010

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