From light to methane in a cyanobacteria biofilm

Co-culture of cyanobacteria with a methanogenic microbial community yields more methane than either one alone.

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The study of multispecies biofilms can often throw up strange and wonderful results. An Australian research team found that culturing methanogenic microbes with the cyanobacteria Oscillatoria increased the yield of methane. They also found that the methanogenic community provided protection for the cyanobacteria, allowing it to survive for longer in an anaerobic digester. You don't have to break the process down too far to see that methane is being produced from light. This is an exciting discovery for future of industrial methane production.

Increased methane production in cyanobacteria and methanogenic microbe co-cultures.


A novel light-to-bioenergy system produced 3.5 times the baseline methane output using a co-culture of cyanobacteria (Oscillatoria sp.) and a methanogenic microbial community. Analysis of micronutrients in the system during the growth phase indicated that cobalt, iron, nickel and zinc were not appreciably consumed. The stable consumption and return of macronutrients calcium and magnesium were also observed. Essential macronutrients nitrogen, in the form of nitrate, and phosphorus showed no cycling during the growth phase and were depleted at rates of 0.35 mg/L/day and 0.40 µg/L/day, respectively. Biofilm formation increased the resilience of biomass to bacterial degradation in an anaerobic digester, as shown by viability assays of cyanobacterial biofilms in the co-culture.


Bioresour Technol. 2017 Jun 24;243:686-692. doi:10.1016/j.biortech.2017.06.126. [Epub ahead of print]

Increased methane production in cyanobacteria and methanogenic microbe co-cultures.

Yeung T, Kwan M, Adler L, Mills TJ, Neilan BA, Conibeer G, Patterson R.

Ben Libberton

Science Communicator, Freelance

I'm a freelance science communicator, formerly a Postdoc in the biofilm field. I'm interested in how bacteria cause disease and look to technology to produce novel tools to study and ultimately prevent infection.