Single CSTR can be as effective as an SBR in selecting PHA-storing biomass from municipal wastewater-derived feedstock
A key step for the production of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) from organic waste streams is the selection of a biomass with a high PHA-storage capacity (selection-step), which is usually performed in sequencing batch reactors (SBR). A major advancement would be to perform such selection in continuous reactors to facilitate the full-scale implementation of PHA production from municipal wastewater (MWW)-derived feedstock. The present study therefore investigates to what extent a simple
... flow stirred-tank reactor (CSTR) represents a relevant alternative to anSBR. To this end, we operated two selection reactors (CSTR vs. SBR) on filtered primary sludge fermentate while performing a detailed analysis of the microbial communities, and monitoring PHAstorage over long-term (~150 days) and during accumulation batches. Our study demonstrates that a simple CSTR is as effective as an SBR in selecting biomass with high PHA-storage capacity (up to 0.65 gPHA gVSS − 1 ) while being 50% more efficient in terms of substrate to biomass conversion yields. We also show that such selection can occur on VFA-rich feedstock containing nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in excess, whereas previously, selection of PHA-storing organisms in a single CSTR has only been studied under P limitation. We further found that microbial competition was mostly affected by nutrient availability (N and P) rather than by the reactor operation mode (CSTR vs. SBR). Similar microbial communities therefore developed in both selection reactors, while microbial communities were very different depending on N availability. Rhodobacteraceae gen. were most abundant when growth conditions were stable and N-limited, whereas dynamic N-(and P-) excess conditions favoured the selection of the known PHA-storer Comamonas, and led to the highest observed PHAstorage capacity. Overall, we demonstrate that biomass with high storage capacity can be selected in a simple CSTR on a wider range of feedstock than just P-limited ones.