Simultaneous phenol removal, nitrification and denitrification using microbial fuel cell technology

Journal Reference

Water Research, Volume 76, 1 June 2015, Pages 160–170. 

Chunhua Feng, , Liqiao Huang, Hui Yu, Xiaoyun Yi, Chaohai Wei.

School of Environment and Energy, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou 510006, PR China.


Here we show that concomitant removal of phenol and nitrogen can be accomplished in a single dual-chamber microbial fuel cell (MFC) reactor, in which the two chambers are separated with an anion-exchange membrane. A series of experiments were performed with ammonium (230 NH4+–N mg L−1) and phenol (with concentrations varying from 0 to 1400 mg L−1) fed to the aerobic cathode chamber of the microbial fuel cell . Experimental results demonstrated that no apparent inhibitory effect of phenol on the nitrifying reaction was noted even at the phenol concentration up to 600 mg L−1. For all the experiments, simultaneous nitrification and denitrification was achieved in the microbial fuel cell . In comparison to the traditional aerobic bioreactor (ABR) and the same microbial fuel cell run under the open-circuit condition, the microbial fuel cell reactor allowed less inhibition of nitrification to phenol exposure and higher rate of nitrogen removal. The data of bacterial analysis revealed that electrochemically active bacteria and denitrifiers in the anaerobic chamber play a significant role in electricity generation and anaerobic denitrification, respectively, while phenol-degrading bacteria, nitrifiers, and denitrifiers in the aerobic cathode chamber are responsible for phenol oxidation, aerobic nitrification and aerobic denitrification, respectively. These results imply that the microbial fuel cell holds potential for simultaneous removal of phenolic compounds and nitrogen contained in some particular industrial wastewaters.

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