Unravelling syntrophic relationships in anaerobic digestion systems

Anaerobic digestion processes depend on a complex microbial community cooperating to convert organic waste into biogas. This project aims to elucidate syntrophic relationships essential for efficient biogas production.


In anaerobic digestion (AD) systems, organic waste is decomposed by a variety of microorganisms to form biogas for energy recovery. The final steps of AD, acetogenesis and subsequent methanogenesis, are performed by organisms in syntrophic relationships, obligatory and mutualistic types of symbiosis in which the microorganisms depend on each other for energetic reasons.

The syntrophic metabolism is essential to maintain an efficient AD system, making it important to gain insight in the syntrophic relationships existing in the system. Unfortunately, the current lack of isolated and enrichment cultures limits the investigation of the ecology and physiology of these interesting microorganisms.


Our goal is to obtain enrichment cultures of hypothesized syntrophic organisms, which allows a more detailed investigation into microbial interactions occurring in AD systems. In addition, selective co-culturing of acetogenic and methanogenic species will reveal more potential syntrophies to be explored.

BSc/MSc theses

Thesis projects are available for BSc or MSc students with interest in microbial cultivation, microbial ecology and bioinformatics. Please contact me via the contact form.