Electrochemically active bacteria enable a variety of novel processes in bioproduction, bioenergy and bioremediation. Key to the success of these processes is effective adherence of the bacterial cells to an electrode surface and subsequent equally effective electron exchange with the electrode. While the cellular mechanisms for electron transfer are increasingly known, what drives bacterial adsorption and desorption to positively or negatively polarized electrodes is largely unknown. Particularly processes driven by cathodes tend to be slow, and suffer from limited microbial adherence and lack of growth of the microorganisms. ELECTROTALK aims at developing a mechanistic understanding of mobility towards and microbial adherence at electrode surfaces, from single cell level to complete biofilm formation. Based on this knowledge, effectively catalyzed bio-electrodes will be developed for novel bioproduction processes. Such bioproduction processes, termed microbial electrosynthesis, are independent of arable land availability, promise valuable production densities and enable the capture of CO2 or more efficient resource-usage for a range of products. Understanding the nature of the microorganism-electrode interaction will create a window of opportunity to improve this process and achieve effective bioproduction.

In this project we will physico-chemically characterize cells, and by fine-tuning the electrode chemistry and topography at micro- and nanoscale create an effective interface between the polarized surface and the microorganism. We will also apply our knowledge to structure microbial aggregates.