Bioelectrochemical Systems: Microbiology, Catalysts, Processes and Applications

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Virginia Tech

The treatment of water and wastewater is energy intensive, and there is an urgent need to develop new approaches to address the water-energy challenges. Bioelectrochemical systems (BES) are energy-efficient technologies that can treat wastewater and simultaneously achieve multiple functions such as energy generation, hydrogen production and/or desalination. The objectives of this dissertation are to understand the fundamental microbiology of BES, develop cost-effective cathode catalysts, optimize the process engineering and identify the application niches. It has been shown in Chapter 2 that electrochemically active bacteria can take advantage of shuttle-mediated EET and create optimal anode salinities for their dominance. A novel statistical model has been developed based on the taxonomic data to understand and predict functional dynamics and current production. In Chapter 3, 4 and 5, three cathode catalyst (i.e., N- and S- co-doped porous carbon nanosheets, N-doped bamboo-like CNTs and MoS2 coated on CNTs) have been synthesized and showed effective catalysis of oxygen reduction reaction or hydrogen evolution reaction in BES. Chapter 6, 7 and 8 have demonstrated how BES can be combined with forward osmosis to enhance desalination or achieve self-powered hydrogen production. Mathematical models have been developed to predict the performance of the integrated systems. In Chapter 9, BES have been used as a research platform to understand the fate and removal of antibiotic resistant genes under anaerobic conditions. The studies in this dissertation have collectively demonstrated that BES may hold great promise for energy-efficient water and wastewater treatment.

environmental engineering, bioelectrochemical systems, wastewater treatment, desalination, microbial community, antibiotic resistance genes, catalytic materials