Anaerobic digestion is a multistep process, mediated by a functionally and phylogenetically diverse microbial population. One of the crucial steps is oxidation of organic acids, with electron transfer via hydrogen or formate from acetogenic bacteria to methanogens. This syntrophic microbiological process is strongly restricted by a thermodynamic limitation on the allowable hydrogen or formate concentration. In order to study this process in more detail, we developed an individual-based biofilm model which enables to describe the processes at a microbial resolution. The biochemical model is the ADM1, implemented in a multidimensional domain. With this model, we evaluated three important issues for the syntrophic relationship: (i) Is there a fundamental difference in using hydrogen or formate as electron carrier? (ii) Does a thermodynamic-based inhibition function produced substantially different results from an empirical function? and; (iii) Does the physical co-location of acetogens and methanogens follow directly from a general model. Hydrogen or formate as electron carrier had no substantial impact on model results. Standard inhibition functions or thermodynamic inhibition function gave similar results at larger substrate field grid sizes (>10 μm), but at smaller grid sizes, the thermodynamic-based function reduced the number of cells with long interspecies distances (>2.5 μm). Therefore, a very fine grid resolution is needed to reflect differences between the thermodynamic function, and a more generic inhibition form. The co-location of syntrophic bacteria was well predicted without a need to assume a microbiological based mechanism (e.g., through chemotaxis) of biofilm formation. Crown Copyright © 2006.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Water Science and Technology
- Ecological Modeling
- Waste Management and Disposal