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<a href=Applied Energy 98 (2012) 230–235 Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect Applied Energy journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/apenergy A microbial fuel cell–membrane bioreactor integrated system for cost-effective wastewater treatment Yong-Peng Wang , Xian-Wei Liu , Wen-Wei Li , Feng Li , Yun-Kun Wang , Guo-Ping Sheng , Raymond J. Zeng , Han-Qing Yu School of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei 230026, China Department of Chemistry, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei 230026, China article info Article history: Received 9 January 2012 Received in revised form 9 March 2012 Accepted 12 March 2012 Available online 28 April 2012 Keywords: Microbial fuel cell (MFC) Membrane bioreactor (MBR) Wastewater treatment Bio-cathode Low-cost abstract Microbial fuel cell (MFC) and membrane bioreactor (MBR) are both promising technologies for wastewa- ter treatment, but both with limitations. In this study, a novel MFC–MBR integrated system, which com- bines the advantages of the individual systems, was proposed for simultaneous wastewater treatment and energy recovery. The system favored a better utilization of the oxygen in the aeration tank of MBR by the MFC biocathode, and enabled a high effluent quality. Continuous and stable electricity generation, with the average current of 1.9 ± 0.4 mA, was achieved over a long period of about 40 days. The maximum power density reached 6.0 W m . Moreover, low-cost materials were used for the reactor construction. This integrated system shows great promise for practical wastewater treatment application. 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. 1. Introduction Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are devices that use bacteria as cat- alysts to oxidize various substrates and recover electricity [1,2] . MFCs are promising for wastewater treatment processes, but to achieve practical application there are still many technical and cost obstacles to overcome [3] . One approach to reduce the barriers and improve its applicability is to incorporate MFC into existing waste- water treatment processes [4,5] . In this respect, a continuous-flow mode of operation is usually adopted, which is regarded as more suitable for practical wastewater treatment and MFC application [6] . An integration of MFC with conventional activated sludge pro- cess was first reported by Cha et al. [7] . In this system, an aeration tank was directly used as the cathode chamber, where the aerobic biofilm developed on the cathode serve as low-cost and self-sus- tainable catalyst. To support a continuous-flow operation, the aer- ation tank was followed by a clarifier, and settled sludge was continuously returned. However, this setup incurs additional cost for the clarifier construction and sludge pumping. Compared with this design, a MFC–membrane bioreactor (MBR) integrated design appeared to be more attractive in terms of costs and footprint [8] . MBRs present a high-efficient technology for wastewater treat- ⇑ Corresponding author. Tel.: +86 551 3607592; fax: +86 551 3601592. E-mail address: wwli@ustc.edu.cn (W.-W. Li). 0306-2619/$ - see front matter 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apenergy.2012.03.029 ment, and recently the development of coarse filter MBRs have sig- nificantly lowered the operating cost and promoted its widespread application [9–14] . A novel bioelectrochemical membrane reactor, which makes advantage of both a MBR and a MFC process, was re- cently reported to achieve a maximum power density of 4.35 W m and good pollutant removal performance attributed to the high biomass retention and solid rejection [8] . Nevertheless, that system has a unique and complex reactor design. Specifically, a stainless steel mesh was used, which played a dual function of fil- ter and MFC cathode. Thus, the application of other less-conductive coarse materials would be limited in that system. In addition, there might be difficulties for the integrated system in keeping an appro- priate and balanced biofilm, which serve as both the biocatalyst of MFC and the filtration/fouling layer of MBR. All these make it dif- ficult to be directly incorporated into the existing MBR facilities and its practical application might be limited. Therefore, in this study we develop a more practical MFC–MBR integrated process, in which the aeration tank of a MBR was di- rectly used as the cathode chamber. Carbon felt was used as the cathode to favor biofilm development. In order to further reduce the investment and operating cost, low-cost nylon mesh were adopted here as the filter material. The suitability of such materials as MBR filter have been demonstrated in several previous studies [8,14,15] . This work aims to investigate the feasibility of applying a relatively simple MFC–MBR integrated system for continuous wastewater treatment and power generation. " id="pdf-obj-0-5" src="pdf-obj-0-5.jpg">

Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect

Applied Energy

<a href=Applied Energy 98 (2012) 230–235 Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect Applied Energy journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/apenergy A microbial fuel cell–membrane bioreactor integrated system for cost-effective wastewater treatment Yong-Peng Wang , Xian-Wei Liu , Wen-Wei Li , Feng Li , Yun-Kun Wang , Guo-Ping Sheng , Raymond J. Zeng , Han-Qing Yu School of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei 230026, China Department of Chemistry, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei 230026, China article info Article history: Received 9 January 2012 Received in revised form 9 March 2012 Accepted 12 March 2012 Available online 28 April 2012 Keywords: Microbial fuel cell (MFC) Membrane bioreactor (MBR) Wastewater treatment Bio-cathode Low-cost abstract Microbial fuel cell (MFC) and membrane bioreactor (MBR) are both promising technologies for wastewa- ter treatment, but both with limitations. In this study, a novel MFC–MBR integrated system, which com- bines the advantages of the individual systems, was proposed for simultaneous wastewater treatment and energy recovery. The system favored a better utilization of the oxygen in the aeration tank of MBR by the MFC biocathode, and enabled a high effluent quality. Continuous and stable electricity generation, with the average current of 1.9 ± 0.4 mA, was achieved over a long period of about 40 days. The maximum power density reached 6.0 W m . Moreover, low-cost materials were used for the reactor construction. This integrated system shows great promise for practical wastewater treatment application. 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. 1. Introduction Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are devices that use bacteria as cat- alysts to oxidize various substrates and recover electricity [1,2] . MFCs are promising for wastewater treatment processes, but to achieve practical application there are still many technical and cost obstacles to overcome [3] . One approach to reduce the barriers and improve its applicability is to incorporate MFC into existing waste- water treatment processes [4,5] . In this respect, a continuous-flow mode of operation is usually adopted, which is regarded as more suitable for practical wastewater treatment and MFC application [6] . An integration of MFC with conventional activated sludge pro- cess was first reported by Cha et al. [7] . In this system, an aeration tank was directly used as the cathode chamber, where the aerobic biofilm developed on the cathode serve as low-cost and self-sus- tainable catalyst. To support a continuous-flow operation, the aer- ation tank was followed by a clarifier, and settled sludge was continuously returned. However, this setup incurs additional cost for the clarifier construction and sludge pumping. Compared with this design, a MFC–membrane bioreactor (MBR) integrated design appeared to be more attractive in terms of costs and footprint [8] . MBRs present a high-efficient technology for wastewater treat- ⇑ Corresponding author. Tel.: +86 551 3607592; fax: +86 551 3601592. E-mail address: wwli@ustc.edu.cn (W.-W. Li). 0306-2619/$ - see front matter 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apenergy.2012.03.029 ment, and recently the development of coarse filter MBRs have sig- nificantly lowered the operating cost and promoted its widespread application [9–14] . A novel bioelectrochemical membrane reactor, which makes advantage of both a MBR and a MFC process, was re- cently reported to achieve a maximum power density of 4.35 W m and good pollutant removal performance attributed to the high biomass retention and solid rejection [8] . Nevertheless, that system has a unique and complex reactor design. Specifically, a stainless steel mesh was used, which played a dual function of fil- ter and MFC cathode. Thus, the application of other less-conductive coarse materials would be limited in that system. In addition, there might be difficulties for the integrated system in keeping an appro- priate and balanced biofilm, which serve as both the biocatalyst of MFC and the filtration/fouling layer of MBR. All these make it dif- ficult to be directly incorporated into the existing MBR facilities and its practical application might be limited. Therefore, in this study we develop a more practical MFC–MBR integrated process, in which the aeration tank of a MBR was di- rectly used as the cathode chamber. Carbon felt was used as the cathode to favor biofilm development. In order to further reduce the investment and operating cost, low-cost nylon mesh were adopted here as the filter material. The suitability of such materials as MBR filter have been demonstrated in several previous studies [8,14,15] . This work aims to investigate the feasibility of applying a relatively simple MFC–MBR integrated system for continuous wastewater treatment and power generation. " id="pdf-obj-0-16" src="pdf-obj-0-16.jpg">

A microbial fuel cell–membrane bioreactor integrated system for cost-effective wastewater treatment

Yong-Peng Wang a , Xian-Wei Liu a , Wen-Wei Li b , , Feng Li b , Yun-Kun Wang b , Guo-Ping Sheng b , Raymond J. Zeng b , Han-Qing Yu b

a School of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei 230026, China b Department of Chemistry, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei 230026, China

article info

Article history:

Received 9 January 2012 Received in revised form 9 March 2012 Accepted 12 March 2012 Available online 28 April 2012

Keywords:

Microbial fuel cell (MFC)

Membrane bioreactor (MBR) Wastewater treatment Bio-cathode Low-cost

abstract

Microbial fuel cell (MFC) and membrane bioreactor (MBR) are both promising technologies for wastewa- ter treatment, but both with limitations. In this study, a novel MFC–MBR integrated system, which com- bines the advantages of the individual systems, was proposed for simultaneous wastewater treatment and energy recovery. The system favored a better utilization of the oxygen in the aeration tank of MBR by the MFC biocathode, and enabled a high effluent quality. Continuous and stable electricity generation,

with the average current of 1.9 ± 0.4 mA, was achieved over a long period of about 40 days. The maximum power density reached 6.0 W m 3 . Moreover, low-cost materials were used for the reactor construction. This integrated system shows great promise for practical wastewater treatment application. 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are devices that use bacteria as cat- alysts to oxidize various substrates and recover electricity [1,2]. MFCs are promising for wastewater treatment processes, but to achieve practical application there are still many technical and cost obstacles to overcome [3]. One approach to reduce the barriers and improve its applicability is to incorporate MFC into existing waste- water treatment processes [4,5]. In this respect, a continuous-flow mode of operation is usually adopted, which is regarded as more suitable for practical wastewater treatment and MFC application [6]. An integration of MFC with conventional activated sludge pro- cess was first reported by Cha et al. [7]. In this system, an aeration tank was directly used as the cathode chamber, where the aerobic biofilm developed on the cathode serve as low-cost and self-sus- tainable catalyst. To support a continuous-flow operation, the aer- ation tank was followed by a clarifier, and settled sludge was continuously returned. However, this setup incurs additional cost for the clarifier construction and sludge pumping. Compared with this design, a MFC–membrane bioreactor (MBR) integrated design appeared to be more attractive in terms of costs and footprint [8]. MBRs present a high-efficient technology for wastewater treat-

Corresponding author. Tel.: +86 551 3607592; fax: +86 551 3601592. E-mail address: wwli@ustc.edu.cn (W.-W. Li).

0306-2619/$ - see front matter 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

ment, and recently the development of coarse filter MBRs have sig- nificantly lowered the operating cost and promoted its widespread application [9–14]. A novel bioelectrochemical membrane reactor, which makes advantage of both a MBR and a MFC process, was re- cently reported to achieve a maximum power density of 4.35 W m 3 and good pollutant removal performance attributed to the high biomass retention and solid rejection [8]. Nevertheless, that system has a unique and complex reactor design. Specifically, a stainless steel mesh was used, which played a dual function of fil- ter and MFC cathode. Thus, the application of other less-conductive coarse materials would be limited in that system. In addition, there might be difficulties for the integrated system in keeping an appro- priate and balanced biofilm, which serve as both the biocatalyst of MFC and the filtration/fouling layer of MBR. All these make it dif- ficult to be directly incorporated into the existing MBR facilities and its practical application might be limited. Therefore, in this study we develop a more practical MFC–MBR integrated process, in which the aeration tank of a MBR was di- rectly used as the cathode chamber. Carbon felt was used as the cathode to favor biofilm development. In order to further reduce the investment and operating cost, low-cost nylon mesh were adopted here as the filter material. The suitability of such materials as MBR filter have been demonstrated in several previous studies [8,14,15]. This work aims to investigate the feasibility of applying a relatively simple MFC–MBR integrated system for continuous wastewater treatment and power generation.

Y.-P. Wang et al. / Applied Energy 98 (2012) 230–235

231

2. Materials and methods

  • 2.1. Integrated MFC–MBR system

The diagram of the integrated MFC–MBR system is shown in Fig. 1. A non-woven fabric (density, 400 g m 2 ) was used as the separator of the MFC part. Prior to use, the non-woven fabrics were first soaked in polytetrafluoroethylene solution (15 wt.%) for 15 min, then dried at 105 C for 180 min to prevent water leakage. The anodic chamber (80 mL, 4 cm 4 cm 5 cm) was filled with self-fabricated activated carbon fiber [16]. The aeration tank, with a volume of 20 L, was used directly as the cathode chamber. A car- bon felt (Sanye Carbon Co., China) with the thickness of 0.6 cm and projected area of 90 cm 2 was used as the cathode without any pre- treatment and was wrapped on the non-woven cloth. The anode and cathode were connected through a 50 X resistor and the volt- ages were recorded automatically every 10 min using a data acqui- sition system (USB2801, ATD Co., China). For the MBR part, the nylon mesh with a pore size of 74 l m was used as the filter material. The membrane module (14 cm 3 cm 36 cm) with an effective filtration area of 1000 cm 2 was submerged into the aeration tank. Aeration units were placed at the bottom of the module. The initial concentration of mixed liquor suspended solids (MLSS) in the MBR was about 2.8 g L 1 . The aeration flow rate was 300 L h 1 and the influent flow rate was 2.33 L h 1 . In order to suit the incorporation of MFC into MBR, the MBR’s influent line was slightly altered. The MFC was inserted with two silicone tubes on the top and bottom of anodic chamber. Synthetic wastewater was continuously pumped into the MFC module through the bottom silicone tube using a peristaltic pump (Lange Co., China). The preliminarily treated wastewater in MFC module then flew into the aeration tank of the MBR for further treatment.

  • 2.2. Inoculation and operation of the system

A 50 mL mixture of anaerobic and activated sludge collected from laboratory bioreactors was injected as inoculum into the ano- dic zone from the bottom tube of the MFC. In order to enrich the electroactive bacteria for both anode and cathode, the MFC module was initially submerged in an activated sludge reactor and operated at a continuous-flow mode. The flow rate (0.03 L h 1 ) was much lower than that selected for the coupled system. The composition of wastewater was as described previ- ously [17]. In the wastewater 50 mM phosphorus buffer was added. The aeration was paused for 30 min every 3 days for main- tenance. At the initial stage of the operation, a small amount of inoculation sludge had been washed out. But with the accumula-

tion of anodic biomass, the microorganisms in effluent of MFC de- creased significantly. The enrichment process lasted for about 30 days. After reaching a stable status for about 1 week, the MFC module was transferred to the aeration tank of the MBR and the coupled system began to work after small modification of MBR’s influent pipe. The chemical oxygen demand (COD) concentration of the synthetic wastewater was 400 mg L 1 which was close to the con- centration of domestic wastewater. The COD concentrations of the effluents from the MFC and the integrated system were measured according to the Standard Method [18]. Prior to measurements, all samples were filtered through a 0.45 lm membrane filter.

  • 2.3. Morphological and electrochemical analysis

The biofilm attached on the cathode was characterized by scan- ning electron microscopy (SEM) (Sirion200, FEI Ltd., UK), following the procedure reported by Sun et al. [19]. To characterize the potential of catalyzing the oxygen reduction by the cathodic biofilm, cyclic voltammetry (CV) of the biofilm (cut from the cathode, about 0.4 cm 2 ) was performed using an electro- chemical workstation (CHI660C, Chenhua Instrument Co., China) with a three-electrode system. The reactor influent was used as the electrolyte. To identify the position of oxygen reduction peak, CV of the biofilm was repeated in the original electrolyte bubbled with nitrogen and air respectively. The CV of the fresh graphite felt with the same area had also been tested as a control. The polarization curves of MFC were obtained by varying the circuit external resistance from 10 to 10,000 X when the cell volt- age of the MFC was relatively stable. Coulombic efficiency (CE) of

MFC was calculated as

CE = C p /C th 100%, where C p is the total

coulombs calculated by integrating the current over time, and C th is the theoretical amount of coulombs available based on the COD removed in the MFC.

3. Results and discussion

  • 3.1. Electricity generation performance

After the MFC module was transferred into aeration tank of the mesh bioreactor, the output current of MFC dropped a little from about 1.1 mA to 0.76 mA. This decline of power generation was mainly attributed to the lower conductivity of wastewater compared to that of the phosphate buffered nutrient medium for enrichment. In the following 2 days, the current gradually increased to 2.6 mA (Fig. 2a), indicating that the biofilm in the

Y.-P. Wang et al. / Applied Energy 98 (2012) 230–235 231 2. Materials and methods 2.1.

Fig. 1. Schematic of the MFC–MBR integrated system.

232

Y.-P. Wang et al. / Applied Energy 98 (2012) 230–235

232 Y.-P. Wang et al. / Applied Energy 98 (2012) 230–235 Fig. 2. (a) Current generation

Fig. 2. (a) Current generation of the system in over 40-day operation and (b) polarization and power density curves for the MFC.

cathode of MFC were acclimated and began to catalyze the oxygen reduction effectively. In the subsequent over 40 days, the MFC exhibited a relatively good performance with current fluctuating at around 1.9 ± 0.4 mA. This current fluctuation was due to the variety of temperature in the day time and at night. Polarization curves were measured when the cell voltage became relatively stable. The open circuit voltage of the MFC was 650 mV (Fig. 2b). The maximum power density was 6.0 W m 3 (normalized with the total MFC volume) or 0.053 W m 2 (normal- ized to the cathode area). The current and power outputs achieved in this test were comparable with other membrane-less MFCs [20,21] or MFCs integrated with activated sludge systems [7,8,22]. From the slope of the polarization curve, the internal resistance of the MFC was calculated as 365 ± 28 X over a current range of 0.06–2 mA, which was in the same range as other mem- brane-less MFCs [23,24]. The CE was calculated based on the data after the 14th day when the system condition became stable. Generally, the total CE of MFC was about 1.5%. This low CE was due to the diffusion of dis- solved oxygen from the cathode to the anode, because the perme- able non-woven fabrics were used as the separator [25,26]. In addition, previous studies have shown that during long-term operation, a development of pH gradient tends to occur due to the low diffusion rate of proton through the separator in MFCs [27]. This problem was effectively avoided here, as was demonstrated by the low pH fluctuations in the aeration tank. The continuous flow from anode chamber to the aeration tank enabled a good pH neutralization of the wastewater in this system, leading to a high stability in electricity generation.

3.2. COD and SS removal efficiencies

The effluent COD concentration maintained at around 41.5 ± 14.8 mg L 1 (Fig. 3a). The average COD removal efficiency reached 89.6 ± 3.7% (Fig. 3b). The poor COD removal on Days 6 and 7 was caused by the breakage of the MBR membrane. Because of the good retention of particulate matters by the MBR, the efflu- ent suspended solids (SS) concentration was nearly nil, and the

232 Y.-P. Wang et al. / Applied Energy 98 (2012) 230–235 Fig. 2. (a) Current generation

Fig. 3. (a) Effluent COD concentration; (b) COD removal efficiency of the integrated system; (c) MLSS concentration in the MBR.

effluent turbidity was about 0.8 NTU during the operation period. The MLSS concentration of the reactor maintained at 2658 ± 254 mg L 1 during the operation period (Fig. 3c). As one significant objective of this test was to investigate the feasibility to provide an efficient and cost-effective bio-cathode for MFCs by integrating MFCs with MBR, the volume of MFC anode chamber was designed smaller than that of MBR, so that the sub- strate availability at the anode and oxygen transfer at the cathode would be improved. Nevertheless, because of the great difference between the net volume of the anode and cathode chamber, the percentage of COD removed by the single MFC module was limited due to a short hydraulic retention time in the MFC. For practical application, more MFC could be submerged to the MBR system to increase the COD conversion to electricity.

3.3. Morphological and electrochemical properties of cathode

The aeration tank of MBR provided a favorable environment for the biocathode development. The formation of biofilm on the cath- ode was clearly shown in Fig. 4a–c. CV of the biofilm was per- formed to characterize its potential of catalyzing the oxygen reduction. As shown in Fig. 4d, a reduction peak at the potential of 0.13 V vs. Ag/AgCl occurred. This reduction potential value was close to that obtained from other biocatalysts for oxygen reduction [28], even more positive than from some chemical cata- lysts [29,30]. In order to confirm whether the peak corresponded to the oxygen reduction, CV of the biofilm was repeated in fresh elec- trolyte bubbled with nitrogen and air respectively. The peak cur- rent decreased initially after nitrogen bubbling but rebounded after about 10 min, demonstrating that oxygen reduction indeed

Y.-P. Wang et al. / Applied Energy 98 (2012) 230–235

233

Y.-P. Wang et al. / Applied Energy 98 (2012) 230–235 233 Fig. 4. Microstructure and electrochemical

Fig. 4. Microstructure and electrochemical properties of the bio-cathode. (a) SEM images of graphite felt; (b and c): SEM images of biofilm on graphite felt; (d): Cyclic voltammogram of the microorganisms on the cathode in r substrate at a COD of 400 mg L 1 ; s substrate then bubbled with nitrogen for 10 min; t substrate bubbled with air for 10 min; and u cyclic voltammogram of fresh graphite felt in the substrate. The substrate had the same composition as the influent of the integrated system.

occurred and microorganisms on the cathode could catalyze the process efficiently. CV of fresh graphite felt was also conducted to exclude the possibility of oxygen reduction by graphite felt it- self. Similar CV curves were obtained when bigger-size fresh graphite felt (1 cm 2 ) was used under the same condition.

3.4. Significance of the integrated system of MFC and MBR

Here, we developed a low cost and efficient integrated process for wastewater treatment, which combined the merits of both MFC and MBR. The MBR favors good sludge retention and sufficient biofilm development on the MFC cathode, enables a high utilization of the oxygen as electron acceptor at cathode, and ensures good effluent quality. Meanwhile, the MFC has the promise to partially offset the energy consumption in MBR process by generating electricity, and thus enables a more sustainable wastewater treatment. Low material cost and high operational sustainability are desir- able for an efficient wastewater treatment system. The costs of the main components of the present system were estimated and

compared with thoses in conventional MFC and MBR, as is shown in Table 1. The cost of carbon felt, non-woven and nylon mesh here added up to only 0.24 dollar and the overall cost for MFC and MBR modules (plexiglass included, 3.3 dollar kg 1 ) did not exceed 5 dol- lars. The nylon mesh used in this test was so cheap that it could be directly replaced after serious fouling. Other materials could work well without maintenance for at least 1 year. The material costs for wastewater treatment in 1 year with this system would be less than 0.3 dollar m 3 . Any expensive proton exchange membranes, metal catalyst and microfiltration/ultrafiltration membranes which were usually considered as the main costly components for MFCs or MBRs were not adopted at all. These further add up to the economical attractiveness of such a system and enable bet- ter sustainability of this system. Several systems combining MFC and activated sludge processes have been reported previously. A comprehensive comparison of these systems and our reactor in terms of treatment performance, power generation, economics and system characteristics is pro- vided in Table 2. Due to the subsequent activated sludge system,

Table 1

Comparison of costs of main components in conventional MFC or MBR and in our system.

Components in MFC or MBR

Mostly used in conventional MFC or MBR

Used in our system

Anode

Carbon cloth (E-Tek, 620 dollar m 2 [31])

Self-fabricated carbon fiber (–)

Cathode

Platinum-coated carbon cloth (E-Tek, 0.5 mg cm 2 , 2000 dollar m 2 [31]) Carbon felt (13 dollar m 2 )

Separator

Nafion membranes (2500 dollar m 2 [31])

Non-woven (2 dollar m 2 )

Filtration material

Microfiltration or ultrafiltration membrane (66 dollar m 2 [32])

Nylon mesh (1 dollar m 2 )

234

Table 2

Y.-P. Wang et al. / Applied Energy 98 (2012) 230–235

Performances and characteristics of systems combining MFC and activated sludge process.

Activated sludge system applied

Normal activated sludge system

SBR

MBR

MBR

Influent/effluent COD (mg L 1 )

234/–

490/(<50)

(126–439)/(20–41) 400/(41.5 ± 14.8)

MPD (W m 3 )

16.7

2.3

4.4

6.0

Anode Cathode PEM System characteristics

Graphite felt or carbon cloth Graphite felt or carbon cloth Yes Simple, but subsequent module/operation is needed to retain the biomass

Graphite granules Carbon felt No Operated in batch mode; large fluctuation in substrate supply

Graphite rod and granules Stainless steel mesh No Complex design; high

conductivity is required for filtering materials; difficult biomass maintenance on the cathode due to its dual functions

Activated carbon fiber Carbon felt No Simple, easy to maintain and scale up; highly suitable for continuous-flow operation

Cost

High investment, low operating cost and moderate maintenance cost

Low investment and operating cost, low maintenance cost

Moderate investment, low operating cost and moderate maintenance cost

Low investment and operating cost, low maintenance cost

Refs.

[7]

[22]

[8]

This work

MPD: maximum power density.

all systems showed good performance in COD removal. However, compared with SBR or other processes, MBR, attributed to the con- tinuous-flow operating mode, is more suitable to couple with MFC. In comparison with the MBR system reported by Wang et al. [8], our system is simpler, easy to maintain, has no limitation in the selection of filtering materials, and can be readily incorporated into the existing wastewater treatment facilities. Furthermore, both the investment and operating cost are very low compared to other sys- tems. All these promise a great prospect of this integrated system for practical wastewater treatment application.

4. Conclusions

In this study, an integrated MFC–MBR system was demon- strated to favor low-cost and efficient wastewater treatment and power generation. The MBR was used to guarantee the effluent quality and to provide a low-cost and effective bio-cathode for MFC, while the MFC promises an energy offset to the overall treat- ment process. An average current of 1.9 ± 0.4 mA was generated over a long period of about 40 days. The maximum power density reached 6.0 W m 3 . In addition, cost-effective materials were adopted for the system construction, suggesting a high economical attractiveness and practical applicability of this system. Neverthe- less, further improvements in system design and operating condi- tions are still needed to enable a better wastewater treatment performance and higher power generation.

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank the NSFC (51008290), the Funda- mental Research Funds for the Central Universities, the National Water Pollution Control Project (2009ZX07210-003) and the Outstanding Young Scientists Foundation of Anhui Province, China (10040606Y27) for the partial support of this study.

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Glossary

Cyclic voltammetry (CV): a type of potentiodynamic electrochemical measurement. During the measurement, the working electrode potential is ramped linearly over time to a set potential, then the working electrode’s potential ramp is inverted to form a cycle. This technique is generally used to study the electrochemical proper- ties of an analyte in solution. Cyclic voltammogram is the obtained profiles from cyclic voltammetry