Strategies for PHA production by mixed cultures and renewable waste materials
Production of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) by mixed cultures has been widely studied in the last decade. Storage of PHA by mixed microbial cultures occurs under transient conditions of carbon or oxygen availability, known respectively as aerobic dynamic feeding and anaerobic/aerobic process. In these processes, PHA-accumulating organisms, which are quite diverse in terms of phenotype, are selected by the dynamic operating conditions imposed to the reactor. The stability of these processes during long-time operation and the similarity of the polymer physical/chemical properties to the one produced by pure cultures were demonstrated. This process could be implemented at industrial scale, providing that some technological aspects are solved. This review summarizes the relevant research carried out with mixed cultures for PHA production, with main focus on the use of wastes or industrial surplus as feedstocks. Basic concepts, regarding the metabolism and microbiology, and technological approaches, with emphasis on the kind of feedstock and reactor operating conditions for culture selection and PHA accumulation, are described. Challenges for the process optimization are also discussed.
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