Evaluating and Optimising the Microbial Ecology of Novel Anaerobic Digester Configurations.

Evaluating and Optimising Digester Configurations.

Name: Jamie FitzGerald

Position: PhD 

T: 353 (0)21 420-5277

F: 353 (0)21 490-1932

E: fitzg.jamie@gmail.com 

Project Title: Evaluating and Optimising the Microbial Ecology of Novel Anaerobic Digester Configurations

Funding Body: Industry Partner  & Science Foundation Ireland

Period: October 2013 - 2017

Project Description:

Anaerobic digestion is a maturing technology: the conversion of bio-matter to methane by complex microbial communities has applications in renewable energy, energy storage, and waste remediation, as well as promoting a sustainability-centred economy. However, the methanogenic communities found in bioreactors are neither fully understood nor optimised, due to variety in design, differences in evaluation, and the underlying dsiversity of microbial communities.

A pilot reactor utilising a single high-yield feedstock (sugarbeet, Beta vulgaris) is expected to provide a controlled environment in which to study and optimize the reactor’s ecology, from the seeding stage through steady-state operation. Regular 16S DNA sequencing from the reactor will allow profiling of the microbial community as it evolves; considered with input/output trends it will allow key players and stages in a methane-generating community to be characterised for this reactor setup. Secondly, characterising the community’s development is expected to identify areas where reactor process and design can be improved, considering pre-treatments and supplements, with an aim to curtail acclimatisation periods and optimise yield.

Ultimately, improved understanding of the evolving microbiology in a controlled environment will provide a road-map for optimising this and future reactors.

 

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Environmental Research Institute

University College Cork, Lee Road, Cork

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