Gas fermentation utilizes syngas converted from biomass or waste as feedstock. A bubble column reactor for pressurizing was designed to increase the mass transfer rate between gas and liquid, and reduce energy consumption by medium agitation. Thermococcus onnurineus, a hydrogenic CO-oxidizer, was cultured initially under ambient pressure with the initial inlet gas composition; 60% CO and 40% N2. The maximum H2 productivity was 363 mmol/l/h, without pH adjustment. When additional pressure was applied, the pH rapidly declined; this may be attributed to the increased CO2 solubility under pressure. By controlling pH, H2 productivity increased up to 450 mmol/l/h; which is comparable to the previously reported H2 productivity in a continuous stirred tank reactor. The results may suggest energy saving potentials of bubble column reactors in gas fermentation. This finding may be applied to other gas fermentation processes, as syngas itself contains CO2 and many microbial processes also release CO2.
Keywords: Carbon monoxide; Gas fermentation; Hydrogen; Microbial bubble column reactor; Pressurization.
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