A compilation and bioenergetic evaluation of syntrophic microbial growth yields in anaerobic digestion

Mauricio Patón, Jorge Rodríguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


A compilation and analysis of experimentally determined microbial growth yields for syntrophic volatile fatty acid (VFA), lactate oxidisers and methanogens in anaerobic digestion (AD)systems is presented. Only studies based on experimental determinations or sound model-to-data fitting that specifically address parameter identifiability, have been considered. The experimentally determined values are compared and discussed with estimations based on bioenergetic correlations. Only for acetoclastic methanogens the experimentally determined microbial yields appear in good consistency with bioenergetic estimations. For syntrophic microbial groups, the experimetal yield values reported appear much higher than those expected from the low amount of metabolic energy available. These large deviations imply either inaccuracy on the microbial biomass quantification methods or that the syntrophic interspecies electron transfer occurs under mechanisms, or hydrogen equivalent intermediate activities, much below those ever observed in methanogenic environments. In addition, the microbial growth yield values most widely adopted in AD model applications (those reported in the IWA Anaerobic Digestion Model No. 1 (ADM1))are even higher than the experimental determinations from literature. It is therefore proposed that microbial growth yield values should be restricted by the maximum harvestable ATP calculated through a detailed bioenergetic pathway analysis. Model simulations with different parameter configurations for different yield sources (default ADM1, experimentally determined and bioenergetically estimated values)displayed low sensitivity of the simulations with respect to the yield values as long as the maximum specific microbial growth rate (μmax)remain the same. This suggests that model calibrations could target the accuracy of μmax maintaining the bioenergetic upper limit for microbial growth yields.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)176-183
Number of pages8
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • Anaerobic digestion
  • Bioenergetics
  • Microbial growth yield
  • Modelling
  • Syntrophy


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