Exploring natural and artificial biofilms of acetogenic bacteria to improve microbial electrosynthesis rates


Research area and project description:

Microbial electrosynthesis is a novel biotechnological process for the conversion of excess renewable electricity and CO2 into biofuels or other organic compounds. This process relies on acetogenic bacteria capable of reducing CO2 to organic compounds using electrons delivered by an electrode (cathode). One major problem limiting the rate of microbial electrosynthesis is the low number of bacterial cells that attach to a cathode. This Phd will investigate whether the production rate of microbial electrosynthesis can be improved by increasing the number of cells on the cathode.

The project will explore two different strategies to increase cell numbers on cathodes. First, natural biofilm formation will be stimulated by condition selection and adaptation. Second, artificial biofilms will be created by immobilizing cells in different polymeric matrices. These natural and artificial biofilms will allow to increase and control the cell numbers on cathodes and assess the effect of attached cell numbers on microbial electrosynthesis rates. Several state-of-the-art techniques, including confocal microscopy and microsensor measurements, will be applied to characterize the two type of biofilms.

Qualifications and specific competences:

We are looking for talented and enthusiastic applicants with a Master’s degree in Microbiology, Bioengineering, Biotechnology, or another discipline with a relevant specialisation. Practical experience with the cultivation of anaerobes, biofilms, cell immobilization, bioelectrochemical systems, etc. will be considered as a plus. Analytical and critical thinking are essential to pursuit a PhD. Further requirements are English fluency and being a team player.

Place of employment and place of work:

This project is a collaboration between the Microbial Electrosynthesis research group, headed by Assistant Professor Jo Philips (Engineering Department) and the Sensor research group of Assistant Professor Klaus Koren (Bioscience Department).

The place of work will be in at Section of Biological and Chemical Engineering, Department of Engineering, Hangøvej 2, 8200 Aarhus N, Denmark. Aarhus University is located in the vibrant city of Aarhus.

About the Microbial Electrosynthesis Research Group
The Microbial Electrosynthesis Research group is a recently started group studying the microbial processes behind microbial electrosynthesis, with as main goal to improve the application of this process. The Microbial Electrosynthesis Research Group is part of the growing and highly dynamic section of Biological and Chemical Engineering.

About the Sensor Research Group

The Sensor group is located at the Institute for Bioscience and focuses on the development and application of both optical as well as electrochemical sensors. We are one of the world leading groups when it comes to development and application of microsensors. We produce in house several types of electrochemical microsensors, but also optical sensors. The laboratory is well equipped and hosts an interdisciplinary team of scientists.

Institution contact information

Applicants seeking further information are invited to contact: Assistant professor Jo Philips (jo.philips@eng.au.dk) Assistant professor Klaus Koren (klaus.koren@bios.au.dk) Associate professor Alberto Scoma (as@eng.au.dk)

Contact email address




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