Anaerobic wastewater treatment is shifting from a philosophy of solely pollutants removal to a philosophy of combined resource recovery and waste treatment. Simultaneous wastewater treatment with energy recovery in the form of energy rich products, brings renewed interest to non-methanogenic anaerobic bioprocesses such as the anaerobic production of hydrogen, ethanol, solvents, VFAs, bioplastics and even electricty from microbial fuel cells. The exisiting kinetic-based modelling approaches, widely used in aerobic and methanogenic wastewater treatment processes, do not seem adequate in investigating such energy limited microbial ecosystems. The great diversity of similar microbial species, which share many of the fermentative reaction pathways, makes quantify microbial groups very difficult and causes identifiability problems. A modelling approach based on the consideration of metabolic reaction networks instead of on separated microbial groups is suggested as an alternative to describe anaerobic microbial ecosystems and in particular for the prediction of product formation as a function of environmental conditions imposed. The limited number of existing relevant fermentative pathways in conjunction with the fact that anaerobic reactions proceed very close to thermodynamic equilibrium reduces the complexity of such approach and the degrees of freedom in terms of product formation fluxes. In addition, energy limitation in these anaerobic microbial ecosystems makes plausible that selective forces associated with energy further define the system activity by favouring those conversions/microorganisms which provide the most energy for growth under the conditions imposed.
Metabolic models to investigate energy limited anaerobic ecosystems
J. Rodríguez, G. C. Premier, A. J. Guwy, R. Dinsdale, R. Kleerebezem; Metabolic models to investigate energy limited anaerobic ecosystems. Water Sci Technol 1 October 2009; 60 (7): 1669–1675. doi: https://doi.org/10.2166/wst.2009.224
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