A series of batch experiments investigating two different pH control strategies, initial pH adjustment and continuous pH control, have been carried out in large laboratory-scale reactors with working volumes of 30 L. In both cases, pH was varied between 5 and 7.5. Sucrose concentrations were also varied starting from 0 up to 30 g/L. Higher hydrogen production yields can be achieved by batch experiments through continuous pH control than by simple initial pH adjustment. In the case of continuous pH control, maximization of hydrogen yield was acquired for slightly acidic pH of 6.5. Continuous pH control in the neutral pH range of 7.0 and in pH lower than 6.5, induced a reduction in the hydrogen production yield. Sucrose can be completely degraded only for a pH higher than 6. Lower pH values seem to inhibit the hydrogen-producing bacteria. Under the conditions of continuous pH adjustment at pH 6.5 and a sucrose concentration of 25 g/L the maximum hydrogen yield of 1.79 mol H2/mol hexose was obtained. These conditions could be applied for the batch start-up of large fermentors.
Keywords: bio-hydrogen, dark fermentation, large lab-scale, pH control, sucrose concentration