Greywater normally represents the largest fraction of wastewater generated in buildings and may be suitable for non-potable reuse after on-site treatment. Conventional technologies for greywater treatment include sequencing batch reactors, membrane filtration, and membrane biological reactors. Even though these can be very effective, they are highly energy consuming and may negatively impact the energy balance of the building where they are installed. Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) have emerged as a sustainable technology for contaminant removal and energy production from a variety of substrates. In this study, the application of MFCs for greywater treatment is reported, with a particular focus on the analysis of energy losses, in view of non-potable reuse. MFCs were fed with different types of greywater, characterized by either high or low conductivity, because greywater’s conductivity may greatly differ based on its origin; in either case, organic matter (chemical oxygen demand; COD) removal was higher than 85% and not influenced by the influent conductivity, coupled with a maximum power production of 0.46 mW L−1
and 0.38 mW L−1
. Electrolyte overpotentials were dramatically higher in the case of low conductivity greywater (20% vs. 10%, compared to high conductivity influent); these overpotentials are related to the conductivity of the influent, showing that low conductivity hindered energy generation, but not COD removal. Polarization and power curves showed higher internal resistance in the case of low conductivity, confirming the overpotentials’ analysis. Results showed the feasibility of the use of MFCs in greywater treatment, with potential to reduce the energy demand connected to its reuse compared to conventional technologies; coupling with a disinfection stage would be necessary to fully comply with most non-potable reuse regulations.
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