Medium Chain Carboxylic Acids from Complex Organic Feedstocks by Mixed Culture Fermentation

Vicky De Groof, Marta Coma, Tom Arnot, David J. Leak, Ana B. Lanham

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

96 Citations (SciVal)


Environmental pressures caused by population growth and consumerism require the development of resource recovery from waste, hence a circular economy approach. The production of chemicals and fuels from organic waste using mixed microbial cultures (MMC) has become promising. MMC use the synergy of bio-catalytic activities from different microorganisms to transform complex organic feedstock, such as by-products from food production and food waste.
In the absence of oxygen, the feedstock can be converted into biogas through the established anaerobic digestion (AD) approach. The potential of MMC has shifted to production of intermediate AD compounds as precursors for renewable chemicals. A particular set of anaerobic pathways in MMC fermentation, known as chain elongation, can occur under specific conditions producing medium chain carboxylic acids (MCCAs) with higher value than biogas and broader applicability.
This review introduces the chain elongation pathway and other bio-reactions occurring during MMC fermentation. We present an overview of the complex feedstocks used, and pinpoint the main operational parameters for MCCAs production such as temperature, pH, loading rates, inoculum, head space composition, and reactor design. The review evaluates the key findings of MCCA
production using MMC, and concludes by identifying critical research targets to drive forward this promising technology as a valorisation method for complex organic waste.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 665992
Original languageEnglish
Article number398
Pages (from-to)1-32
Number of pages32
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2019


  • anaerobic
  • carboxylate platform
  • chain elongation
  • circular economy
  • medium chain carboxylic acid
  • mixed microbial culture
  • organic waste
  • resource recovery
  • waste valorisation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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