Hydrogen Production from Cellulose in a Two-Stage Process Combining Fermentation and Electrohydrogenesis

Elodie Lalaurette, Shivegowda Thammannagowda, Ali Mohagheghi, Pin Ching Maness, Bruce E. Logan

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A two-stage dark-fermentation and electrohydrogenesis process was used to convert the recalcitrant lignocellulosic materials into hydrogen gas at high yields and rates. Fermentation using Clostridium thermocellum produced 1.67 mol H2/mol-glucose at a rate of 0.25 L H2/L-d with a corn stover lignocellulose feed, and 1.64 mol H2/mol-glucose and 1.65 L H2/L-d with a cellobiose feed. The lignocelluose and cellobiose fermentation effluent consisted primarily of: acetic, lactic, succinic, and formic acids and ethanol. An additional 800 ± 290 mL H2/g-COD was produced from a synthetic effluent with a wastewater inoculum (fermentation effluent inoculum; FEI) by electrohydrogensis using microbial electrolysis cells (MECs). Hydrogen yields were increased to 980 ± 110 mL H2/g-COD with the synthetic effluent by combining in the inoculum samples from multiple microbial fuel cells (MFCs) each pre-acclimated to a single substrate (single substrate inocula; SSI). Hydrogen yields and production rates with SSI and the actual fermentation effluents were 980 ± 110 mL/g-COD and 1.11 ± 0.13 L/L-d (synthetic); 900 ± 140 mL/g-COD and 0.96 ± 0.16 L/L-d (cellobiose); and 750 ± 180 mL/g-COD and 1.00 ± 0.19 L/L-d (lignocellulose). A maximum hydrogen production rate of 1.11 ± 0.13 L H2/L reactor/d was produced with synthetic effluent. Energy efficiencies based on electricity needed for the MEC using SSI were 270 ± 20% for the synthetic effluent, 230 ± 50% for lignocellulose effluent and 220 ± 30% for the cellobiose effluent. COD removals were ∼90% for the synthetic effluents, and 70-85% based on VFA removal (65% COD removal) with the cellobiose and lignocellulose effluent. The overall hydrogen yield was 9.95 mol-H2/mol-glucose for the cellobiose. These results show that pre-acclimation of MFCs to single substrates improves performance with a complex mixture of substrates, and that high hydrogen yields and gas production rates can be achieved using a two-stage fermentation and MEC process.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)6201-6210
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Hydrogen Energy
Issue number15
StatePublished - 2009

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-270-46220


  • Biohydrogen
  • Electrolysis cell
  • Fermentation
  • Lignocellulose
  • Microbial


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