Integrated Microbial Electrolysis Cell (MEC) with an anaerobic Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) for low strength wastewater treatment, energy harvesting and water reclamation
AuthorsJimenez Sandoval, Rodrigo J.
AdvisorsSaikaly, Pascal E.
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AbstractShortage of potable water is a problem that affects many nations in the world and it will aggravate in a near future if pertinent actions are not carried out. Decrease in consumption, improvements in water distribution systems to avoid losses and more efficient water treatment processes are some actions that can be implemented to attack this problem. Membrane technology and biological processes are used in wastewater treatment to achieve high water quality standards. Some other technologies, besides water treatment, attempt to obtain energy from organic wastes present in water. In this study, a proof-of-concept was accomplished demonstrating that a Microbial Electrolysis Cell can be fully integrated with a Membrane Bioreactor to achieve wastewater treatment and harvest energy. Conductive hollow fiber membranes made of nickel functioned as both filter material for treated water reclamation and as a cathode to catalyze hydrogen production reaction. The produced hydrogen was subsequently converted into methane by hydrogenotrophic methanogens. Organic removal was 98.9% irrespective of operation mode. Maximum volumetric hydrogen production rate was 0.2 m3/m3d, while maximum current density achieved was 6.1 A/m2 (based on cathode surface area). Biofouling, an unavoidable phenomenon in traditional MBRs, can be minimized in this system through self-cleaning approach of hybrid membranes by hydrogen production. The increased rate of hydrogen evolution at high applied voltage (0.9 V) reduces the membrane fouling. Improvements can be done in the system to make it as a promising net energy positive technology for the low strength wastewater treatment.