Purple phototrophic bacteria for resource recovery: Challenges and opportunities

Gabriel Capson-Tojo, Damien J. Batstone, María Grassino, Siegfried E. Vlaeminck, Daniel Puyol, Willy Verstraete, Robbert Kleerebezem, Adrian Oehmen, Anish Ghimire, More Authors

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Sustainable development is driving a rapid focus shift in the wastewater and organic waste treatment sectors, from a “removal and disposal” approach towards the recovery and reuse of water, energy and materials (e.g. carbon or nutrients). Purple phototrophic bacteria (PPB) are receiving increasing attention due to their capability of growing photoheterotrophically under anaerobic conditions. Using light as energy source, PPB can simultaneously assimilate carbon and nutrients at high efficiencies (with biomass yields close to unity (1 g CODbiomass·g CODremoved−1)), facilitating the maximum recovery of these resources as different value-added products. The effective use of infrared light enables selective PPB enrichment in non-sterile conditions, without competition with other phototrophs such as microalgae if ultraviolet-visible wavelengths are filtered. This review reunites results systematically gathered from over 177 scientific articles, aiming at producing generalized conclusions. The most critical aspects of PPB-based production and valorisation processes are addressed, including: (i) the identification of the main challenges and potentials of different growth strategies, (ii) a critical analysis of the production of value-added compounds, (iii) a comparison of the different value-added products, (iv) insights into the general challenges and opportunities and (v) recommendations for future research and development towards practical implementation. To date, most of the work has not been executed under real-life conditions, relevant for full-scale application. With the savings in wastewater discharge due to removal of organics, nitrogen and phosphorus as an important economic driver, priorities must go to using PPB-enriched cultures and real waste matrices. The costs associated with artificial illumination, followed by centrifugal harvesting/dewatering and drying, are estimated to be 1.9, 0.3–2.2 and 0.1–0.3 $·kgdry biomass−1. At present, these costs are likely to exceed revenues. Future research efforts must be carried out outdoors, using sunlight as energy source. The growth of bulk biomass on relatively clean wastewater streams (e.g. from food processing) and its utilization as a protein-rich feed (e.g. to replace fishmeal, 1.5–2.0 $·kg−1) appears as a promising valorisation route.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107567
Number of pages27
JournalBiotechnology Advances
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Carotenoids
  • Hydrogen
  • Nutrient recovery
  • Polyhydroxyalkanoates
  • Purple non‑sulfur bacteria
  • Purple sulfur bacteria
  • Single-cell protein
  • Waste
  • Wastewater


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