Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) generate energy while aiding the biodegradation of waste through the activity of an electroactive mixed biofilm. Metabolic cooperation is essential for MFCs’ efficiency, especially during early colonization. Thus, examining specific ecological processes that drive the assembly of anode biofilms is highly important for shortening startup times and improving MFC performance, making this technology cost-effective and sustainable. Here, we use metagenomics to show that bioaugmenta-tion of the anode surface with a taxonomically defined electroactive consortium, dominated by Desulfuromonas, resulted in an extremely rapid current density generation. Conversely, the untreated anode surface resulted in a highly stochastic and slower bio-film assembly. Remarkably, an efficient anode colonization process was obtained only if wastewater was added, leading to a nearly complete replacement of the bioaugmented community by Geobacter lovleyi. Although different approaches to improve MFC startup have been investigated, we propose that only the combination of anode bioaugmenta-tion with wastewater inoculation can reduce stochasticity. Such an approach provides the conditions that support the growth of specific newly arriving species that positively support the fast establishment of a highly functional anode biofilm. IMPORTANCE Mixed microbial communities play important roles in treating wastewater, in producing renewable energy, and in the bioremediation of pollutants in contami-nated environments. While these processes are well known, especially the community structure and biodiversity, how to efficiently and robustly manage microbial community assembly remains unknown. Moreover, it has been shown that a high degree of tempo-ral variation in microbial community composition and structure often occurs even under identical environmental conditions. This heterogeneity is directly related to stochastic processes involved in microbial community organization, similarly during the initial stages of biofilm formation on surfaces. In this study, we show that anode surface pre-treatment alone is not sufficient for a substantial improvement in startup times in microbial fuel cells (MFCs), as previously thought. Rather, we have discovered that the combination of applying a well-known consortium directly on the anode surface together with wastewater (including the bacteria that they contain) is the optimized manage-ment scheme. This allowed a selected colonization process by the wastewater species, which improved the functionality relative to that of untreated systems.
- Community assembly
- Electroactive bacterial consortia
- Microbial ecology
- Microbial fuel cells
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