An aircathode microbial desalination cell (AMDC) was successfully started by inoculating anaerobic sludge into the anode of a microbial desalination cell and then used to study the effects of salinity on performance of AMDC and effect of treatment of coastal saline-alkaline soil-washing water. The results showed that the desalination cycle and rate gradually shorten, but salt removal gradually increased when the salinity was decreased, and the highest salt removal was 98.00 ± 0.12% at a salinity of 5 g/L. COD removal efficiency was increased with the extension of operation cycle and largest removal efficiency difference was not significant, but the average coulomb efficiency had significant differences under the condition of each salinity. This indicates that salinity conditions have significant influence on salt removal and coulomb efficiency under the combined action of osmotic pressure, electric field action, running time and microbial activity, etc. On the contrary, COD removal effect has no significant differences under the condition of inoculation of the same substrate in the anode chamber. The salt removal reached 99.13 ± 2.1% when the AMDC experiment ended under the condition of washing water of coastal saline-alkaline soil was inserted in the desalination chamber. Under the action of osmotic pressure, ion migration, nitrification and denitrification, NH4+
-N and NO3−
-N in the washing water of the desalination chamber were removed, and this indicates that the microbial desalination cell can be used to treatment the washing water of coastal saline-alkaline soil. The microbial community and function of the anode electrode biofilm and desalination chamber were analyzed through high-throughput sequencing, and the power generation characteristics, organics degradation and migration and transformation pathways of nitrogen of the aircathode microbial desalination cell were further explained.
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