Microbial Bioelectrocatalysis and Bioelectrotechnology

(c) A. Künzelmann/ UFZ


Dr. Christin Koch


Anne Kuchenbuch (plus assistance to BMBF-project ElektroPapier)
Cornelia Dilßner
Angelika Wichmann

Undergraduates & Guests

Laura Schwab (Univ. Leipzig)
Katharina Neubert (Univ. Leipzig)
Manuel Bartz (Univ. Leipzig)

Group picture 04 2018
(c) A. Worrich

Part of a vibrant international community

Group History 

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Research Topics

The group is active in the following areas:

  • Development of new bioelectrotechnological processes
  • Bioelectrochemical steering of microbial cultures
  • Study of the microbial ecology of electroactive microbial cultures
  • Development of new methods and protocols in the field
  • Fancy ad hoc projects (related to microbiology and/ or electrochemistry)
For details, please contact Falk Harnisch, or wait ...

B.Sc.- & M.Sc.-themes

We offer the following themes for B.Sc. and M.Sc.-theses:

Electrochemical and physiological real-time characterization of electroactive microorganisms on single cell level
This research topic involves cultivation of anaerobic electroactive microorganisms and their characterization in an established microscopy setup. Different questions related to microbial physiology, biofilm formation and single cell activity will be investigated.

Enrichment, isolation and characterization of new electroactive microorganisms from natural environments

Electroactive microorganisms can be found in different habitats and so far no specific ecological niche can be defined. The research topic involves the setup of a defined screening platform for electroactive microorganisms and its application to pure cultures and natural samples (including enrichment, isolation and characterization of new electroactive species).

Assessment of microorganisms for bioelectrosynthesis based on genome features
This research topic focuses on theoretical approaches (bioinformatics, use of databases, etc.) for identifying potential relevant pathways and microorganisms applicable for synthesis in bioelectrochemical systems.

Fundamental studies on electrochemical CO2 reduction for in situ substrate generation in secondary microbial electrochemical technologies: investigation and development of suitable electrode backbone materials
Different metals as electrode backbone material and different electrode geometries (e.g. 3D-electrodes) are systematically studied in this investigation. Therefore, several characteristic parameters of the electrochemical CO2 reduction to C1-compounds will be determined.

Anaerobic mixed-culture production of platform chemicals - assessing separation technologies for mid-chain carboxylic acids
This project comprises anaerobic cultivation of mixed-cultures for carboxylic acid production and a subsequent liquid-liquid extraction of carboxylic acids from the fermentation broth. Thereby, the anaerobic mixed-culture tolerance towards extraction solvent, pH changes, shear force and oxygen will be assessed.

Economic feasibility of microbial electrochemical technologies on the example of renewable diesel additives
How likely is the introduction of microbial biorefineries (converting renewable biomass to fuel-like hydrocarbon mixtures)? To clarify this open question (intermediate) product market prices shall be identified. Furthermore, existing technologies for renewable fuel production will be opposed to the novel electrochemical approach to identify competitiveness.

Polarography as universal tool for accessing bioavailability of trace metals s in microbial cultures
Monitoring bioavailability of trace metals in microbial cultures. The method polarography, i.e. voltammetry at the mercury drop electrode, is applied for quantifying rare metals and trace metal bioavailability.

Analysis of the activity of metal-reducing bacteria
Metal-reducing bacteria are able to transfer metabolic generated electrons with the ability extracellular electron transfer (EET) to solid electron acceptor in their environment. Pure and mixed-cultures will be anaerobic cultivated and measured in a calorimeter for identifying the thermodynamic behind such processes.


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Teaching (in German)

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The foundation of the research groups is greatefully provided by

  • The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) - Award Biotechnology 2020+
    Funding period: 11/2012 - 03/2018
  • The Helmholtz-Association and the UFZ - Helmholtz Young Investigators Group
    Funding period: 11/2012 - 10/2018

Further current third-party-funded projects

  • Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
    BioFAVOR II – Entwicklung und Evaluierung einer mobilen Demonstrationsanlage für die dezentrale Verwertung menschlicher Fäkalien
    PIs: T. Hübner & F. Harnisch (Host)
    Funding period: 04/2018 - 03/2020
    Link to project
  • Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
    ElektroPapier - Entwicklung papierbasierter Elektroden für die mikrobielle elektrochemische Abwasserreinigung
    Work package 5: Microbial analyis
    PIs: F. Harnisch & S. Müller
    Partners: EnviroChemie (Coordinator), FuMATech GmbH, Koehler Greiz GmbH & Co KG, Graphit Kropfmühl GmbH, Papiertechnische Stiftung, TU Braunschweig (IÖNC und ISWW),
    Funding period: 05/2016 - 04/2019
    Homepage of the project (in German)
  • German Environmental Foundation (DBU)
    Microbial Bioelectrotechnology: A plattform-initiative for Germany
    PIs: F. Harnisch, M. A.-Rosenbaum (RWTH Aachen), U. Schröder (TU Braunschweig)
    Funding period: 10/2013 - 12/2018
    Link to project (in German)

  • Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
    BioFAVOR: Entwicklung einer mobilen Anlage zur Erzeugung von Biokohle aus Fäkalschlamm
    PIs: T. Hübner & F. Harnisch (Host)
    Funding period: 09/2016 - 05/2017

  • The Helmholtz-Association and the UFZ - Helmholtz-PostDoc-Fellowship

    Development of a platform for the visualization and analysis of electroactive microbial biofilms
    Fellow: G. Schkolnik
    Hosts: F. Harnisch and N. Musat
    Funding period: 10/2014 - 06/2016

  • Electrochemical Society (ECS)
    A Fully Cardboard Based Microbial Fuel Cell
    PI: F. Harnisch
    Partners: DBFZ, TU Braunschweig
    Funding period: 07/2015 - 01/2016