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Microbial Electrolysis Cells for Decentralised Wastewater Treatment: The Next Steps

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College of Engineering, Design and Physical Sciences, Brunel University London, Uxbridge UB8 3PH, UK
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WASE Limited, London W3 0TG, UK
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Environment & Life Sciences Research Centre, Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, P.O. Box 24885, Safat 13109, Kuwait
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Division of Chemical & Petroleum Engineering, School of Engineering, London South Bank University, London SE1 0AA, UK
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Department of Chemical Engineering, University College London, London WCIE 7JE, UK
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Department of Chemical Engineering, Cyprus University of Technology, 57 Corner of Athinon and Anexartisias, Limassol 3036, Cyprus
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Zacharias Frontistis
Water 2021, 13(4), 445; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13040445
Received: 17 January 2021 / Revised: 29 January 2021 / Accepted: 29 January 2021 / Published: 9 February 2021
(This article belongs to the Section Wastewater Treatment and Reuse)
Traditional wastewater treatment methods have become aged and inefficient, meaning alternative methods are essential to protect the environment and ensure water and energy security worldwide. The use of microbial electrolysis cells (MEC) for wastewater treatment provides an innovative alternative, working towards circular wastewater treatment for energy production. This study evaluates the factors hindering industrial adoption of this technology and proposes the next steps for further research and development. Existing pilot-scale investigations are studied to critically assess the main limitations, focusing on the electrode material, feedstock, system design and inoculation and what steps need to be taken for industrial adoption of the technology. It was found that high strength influents lead to an increase in energy production, improving economic viability; however, large variations in waste streams indicated that a homogenous solution to wastewater treatment is unlikely with changes to the MEC system specific to different waste streams. The current capital cost of implementing MECs is high and reducing the cost of the electrodes should be a priority. Previous pilot-scale studies have predominantly used carbon-based materials. Significant reductions in relative performance are observed when electrodes increase in size. Inoculation time was found to be a significant barrier to quick operational performance. Economic analysis of the technology indicated that MECs offer an attractive option for wastewater treatment, namely greater energy production and improved treatment efficiency. However, a significant reduction in capital cost is necessary to make this economically viable. MEC based systems should offer improvements in system reliability, reduced downtime, improved treatment rates and improved energy return. Discussion of the merits of H2 or CH4 production indicates that an initial focus on methane production could provide a stepping-stone in the adoption of this technology while the hydrogen market matures. View Full-Text
Keywords: wastewater treatment; microbial electrolysis cell; methane production; hydrogen production; waste management; cathode; anode; water research; renewable energy wastewater treatment; microbial electrolysis cell; methane production; hydrogen production; waste management; cathode; anode; water research; renewable energy
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MDPI and ACS Style

Fudge, T.; Bulmer, I.; Bowman, K.; Pathmakanthan, S.; Gambier, W.; Dehouche, Z.; Al-Salem, S.M.; Constantinou, A. Microbial Electrolysis Cells for Decentralised Wastewater Treatment: The Next Steps. Water 2021, 13, 445. https://doi.org/10.3390/w13040445

AMA Style

Fudge T, Bulmer I, Bowman K, Pathmakanthan S, Gambier W, Dehouche Z, Al-Salem SM, Constantinou A. Microbial Electrolysis Cells for Decentralised Wastewater Treatment: The Next Steps. Water. 2021; 13(4):445. https://doi.org/10.3390/w13040445

Chicago/Turabian Style

Fudge, Thomas; Bulmer, Isabella; Bowman, Kyle; Pathmakanthan, Shangami; Gambier, William; Dehouche, Zahir; Al-Salem, Sultan M.; Constantinou, Achilleas. 2021. "Microbial Electrolysis Cells for Decentralised Wastewater Treatment: The Next Steps" Water 13, no. 4: 445. https://doi.org/10.3390/w13040445

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