Energy-efficient Wastewater Treatment by Microbial Fuel Cells: Scaling Up and Optimization

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Virginia Tech

Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are potentially advantageous as an energy-efficient approach to wastewater treatment. For single-chamber tubular MFCs, anode effluent is used as catholyte instead of tap water or buffer solutions. Therefore, exposing cathode electrode to atmosphere could be also considered as a passive aeration for further aerobic oxidation of organics and nitrification. Based on several bench-scale studies, a 200-L scale MFC system with passive aeration process has been developed for treating actual municipal wastewater after primary clarification. The integrated system was able to remove over 80% organic contaminants and solid content from primary effluent. Through parallel and serial electricity connection, the power output of ~200 mW and the conversion efficiency of ~80% for charging capacitors were achieved by using commercially available energy harvesting device (BQ 25504). The treatment system is energy-efficient for the energy saving from aeration and sludge treatment while partial energy recovery as direct electricity can be utilized on site to power small electric devices. However, the post treatments are required to polish the effluent for nutrients removal.

microbial fuel cells, wastewater, energy recovery, Optimization, scaling up