Terepthalate is the byproduct of a common compound used extensively by the plastics industry. The volume of terephthalate wastewater generated is equivalent to the amount of wastewater generated by 20 million people.
|Syntrophic communities are composed of bacteria that break down organic matter and methanogens that remove the hydrogen released to ensure the degradation process continues. (Credit: Courtesy of the Liu Lab, University of Illinois)
To remediate the wastewater, syntrophic communities composed of bacteria that help break down the organic matter and methanogens that remove the hydrogen released so that this degradation process can continue work at more than 100 terephthalate-degrading facilities worldwide.
To better understand these communities, the DOE JGI selected a lab-scale, anaerobic, terephthalate-degrading bioreactor that operates at higher than normal temperatures as one of its 2005 Community Sequencing Program projects. The project led to the publication of the first metagenomic analysis of the syntrophic communities in this bioreactor, which appeared online August 5, 2010 in The ISME Journal.
First author Thanos Lykidis of the DOE JGI said the researchers identified bacteria commonly found in sewage systems, and also gained insight into how the various populations interact with each other to allow the degradation process to proceed.
Senior author Wen-Tso Liu of the University of Illinois said thermophilic bioreactors could help reduce the footprint of wastewater treatment facilities. “Since water is coming out at around 50C, if we can have another microbial community that grows at 45-50ºC and do the same job at the same degradation rate, why not do that? That’s what this paper is about.”