Syntrophic interactions in anaerobic digestion: how biochar properties affect them?

Davidraj Johnravindar, Raffel Dharma Patria, Jonathan T.E. Lee, Le Zhang, Yen Wah Tong, Chi Hwa Wang, Yong Sik Ok, Guneet Kaur*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Biochar as a biomass derived, low cost, carbon conductive material is considered as an important supplement in the anaerobic digestion (AD) of organic matter. It functions as an electrical grid to allow direct electron transfer from fatty acid oxidizers to methanogenic archaea, thereby promoting syntophy between various microbial groups and leading to efficient methanogenesis. Specific properties of biochar play an important role in promoting syntrophic interactions in AD. As a physical indicator, surface area, porosity, particle size and surface texture of biochar play an important role in governing microbial attachment and enrichment on biochar. This influences the microbial degradation of fatty acids and their subsequent conversion to methane by methanogens. Chemical properties such as the presence of hydrophobic functional groups, molecular nature and redox active groups on biochar surface promote interaction between biochar and microorganisms and provide an increased degree of electron transfer between the attached microorganisms. The above characteristics depend on feedstock and pyrolysis conditions used for biochar production. Unlike previous reviews, herein the desired physical and chemical properties of biochar that promote syntrophy in AD and the factors that influence them have been discussed in detail. Furthermore, engineering of biochar properties by various activation methods to harness favourable characteristics of biochar as an effective AD additive is described. Such a comprehensive account would be useful for engineering efficient biochar-mediated digestions with enhanced syntrophy and overall AD performance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1945282
Number of pages15
JournalSustainable Environment
Issue number1
Early online date27 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

User-Defined Keywords

  • Clean and affordable energy
  • engineered biochar
  • fatty acid oxidation
  • interspecies electron transfer
  • Sustainable development goals
  • syntrophic microbial community


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