Biogas is the product of anaerobic digestion (AD) of organic waste and is considered to be one of the most valuable natural renewable energy carriers. Plant biomass represents the most abundant eco-friendly energy reservoir on Earth. However, the tenacious and heterogeneous structure of the lignocellulose-rich elements makes it difficult for the involved microbes to digest the recalcitrant substrates. Both the degradation process and the biogas production yield can be enhanced by appropriate pre-treatment of lignocellulosic materials. Filamentous fungi have been known as proficient colonizers of lignocellulosic plant tissues and have been recognized as producers of exceptionally rich and diverse hydrolytic enzymes. We tested Aspergillus nidulans, Trichoderma reesei, Rhizomucor miehei and Gilbertella persicaria filamentous fungal strains for pre-treatment of various agricultural lignocellulosic wastes. During the pre-treatment phase, the β-glucosidase and endoglucanase activity was measured spectrophotometrically. In the AD step, methane production was monitored by gas chromatography. The preliminary results showed that all the applied strains (Aspergillus nidulans, Trichoderma reesei, Rhizomucor miehei and Gilbertella persicaria) were highly effective in producing both β-glucosidase and endo-(1,4)-β-D-glucanase enzymes, which might explain the greatly improved AD results. Pre-treatment with the above-mentioned filamentous fungi positively affected the biogas production, although the effect strongly depended on the selection of the fungal partner for any given biomass substrate. Depending on the used substrate and the pre-treatment strain, overall methane yields were elevated two-fold relative to the controls.
Keywords: Anaerobic digestion; Biogas; Biomass; Biomethane; Filamentous fungi; Hydrolytic enzymes.
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