Bioengineering options and strategies for the optimization of anaerobic digestion processes

Robert Ferguson, Raffaella Villa, Frédéric Coulon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Anaerobic digestion (AD) is a complex biological process, and the microbial diversity and dynamics within the reactor needs to be understood and considered when process optimization is sought after. Microbial interactions such as competition, mutualism, antagonism and syntrophism affect the function and the survival of single species in the community; hence, they need to be understood for process improvement. Although the relationship between process performance and the microbial community structure is well established, changes in the community might occur without detectable changes in gas production and reactor performance. Recent molecular-based studies have highlighted the complexity of AD systems revealing the presence of several uncultivated species and the need for further research in this area. However, this information is still rarely used for process optimization. The integration of next generation sequencing technologies, such as 454-pyrosequencing, with other techniques, such as phospholipid-derived fatty acids analysis, can provide a holistic understanding of the microbial community. In addition, the in-depth phylogenetic resolution provided can aid environmental ecologists and engineers to better understand and optimize the AD process and consolidate the information collected to date.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Technology Reviews
Issue number1
Early online date17 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Date of Acceptance: 16/03/2015

The authors are grateful to EPSRC and QUESTOR for funding.


  • anaerobic digestion
  • microbial diversity
  • process optimization
  • bioaugmentation
  • microbial ecology


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