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BOD and Total Nitrogen Removal from Wastewater Using Microbial Fuel Cells

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We evaluated two microbial fuel cell (MFC) configurations that potentially can be used to remove BOD and total nitrogen from wastewater. The first was a two-chamber MFC with a denitrifying biocathode, where exoelectrogenic bacteria used the cathode as an electron donor and nitrate as the electron acceptor. This system could be used for tertiary denitrification of wastewater. Denitrification rates obtained in this system were 26 gN/m3-day, based on the cathode liquid volume, or 4.6 gN/m2-day, based on the estimated surface area of graphite granules in the cathode compartment. The biocathode revealed low microbial diversity and clear differences with the anode microbial community. The second was a plug flow configuration, where influent wastewater first passed through an anode compartment and then through a cathode compartment. This type of system could be retrofitted into an activated sludge tank. In the cathode compartment, nitrifying biofilms growing on air-filled hollow-fiber membranes (HFMs) were alternated with denitrifying biocathodes, accomplishing nitrification and denitrification. This configuration achieved a power density of 667mW/m3 (11 mW/m2 cathode). The nitrification fluxes were up to 1.1g NH4 + – N/m2 HFM/d, which is comparable to other hollow fiber membrane based processes, and denitrification fluxes were up to 0.5 g NO3 – N/m2 cathode/d. The results suggest that these MFC configurations may be suitable for removing BOD and TN from wastewater, concurrent with electricity production.

Keywords: Denitrification; Microbial Fuel Cells; Nitrification; Sustainable Wastewater Treatment

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2009

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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