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Title: Strategies to enhance extracellular electron transfer rates in wild-type cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus PCC7942 for photo-bioelectricity generation
Author: Gonzalez Aravena, Arely Carolina
ISNI:       0000 0004 7227 8335
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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The aim of this thesis is to enhance the extracellular electron transfer rates (exoelectrogenesis) in cyanobacteria, to be utilised for photo-bioelectricity generation in biophotovoltaics (electrochemical cell). An initial cross comparison of the cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus PCC7942 against other exoelectrogenic cultures showed a hindered exoelectrogenic capacity. Nonetheless, in mediatorless biophotovoltaics, it outperformed the microalgae Chlorella vulgaris. Furthermore, the performance of S. elongatus PCC7942 was improved by constructing a more efficient design (lower internal resistance), which was fabricated with carbon fibres and nitrocellulose membrane, both inexpensive materials. To strategically obtain higher exoelectrogenic rates, S. elongatus PCC7942 was conditioned by iron limitation and CO2 enrichment. Both strategies are novel in improving cyanobacteria exoelectrogenesis. Iron limitation induced unprecedented rates of extracellular ferricyanide reduction (24-fold), with the reaction occurring favourably around neutral pH, different to the cultural alkaline pH. Iron limited cultures grown in 5% and 20% CO2 showed increased exoelectrogenic rates in an earlier stage of growth in comparison to air grown cultures. Conveniently, the cultural pH under enriched CO2 was around neutral pH. Enhanced photo-bioelectricity generation in ferricyanide mediated biophotovoltaics was demonstrated. Power generation was six times higher with iron limited cultures at neutral pH than with iron sufficient cultures at alkaline pH. The enhanced performance was also observed in mediatorless biophotovoltaics, especially in the dark phase. Exoelectrogenesis was mainly driven by photosynthetic activity. However, rates in the dark were also improved and in the long term it appeared that the exoelectrogenic activity under illumination tended to that seen in the dark. Proteins participating in iron uptake by an alleged reductive mechanism were overexpressed (2-fold). However, oxidoreductases in the outer membrane remain to be identified. Furthermore, electroactive regions in biofilms of S. elongatus PCC7942 were established using cyclic voltammetry. Double step potential chronoamperometry was also successfully tested in the biofilms. Thus, the electrochemical characterisation of S. elongatus PCC7942 was demonstrated, implying that the strategies presented in this thesis could be used to screen for cyanobacteria and/or electrode materials to further develop systems for photo-bioelectricity generation.
Supervisor: Fisher, Adrian Sponsor: Becas Chile Conicyt ; Cambridge Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Photo-bioelectricity ; Bioenergy ; Bioelectrochemistry ; Cyanobacteria ; Exoelectrogenesis ; Microbial electrochemical cell