Are pharmaceuticals removal and membrane fouling in electromembrane bioreactor affected by current density?

L. Borea, Benny Marie B. Ensano, Shadi Wajih Hasan, Malini Balakrishnan, Vincenzo Belgiorno, Mark Daniel G. de Luna, Florencio C. Ballesteros, Vincenzo Naddeo

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42 Scopus citations


Pharmaceutical active compounds (PhACs) have been detected at significant concentrations in various natural and artificial aquatic environments. In this study, electro membrane bioreactor (eMBR) technology was used to treat simulated municipal wastewater containing widely-used pharmaceuticals namely amoxicillin (AMX), diclofenac (DCF) and carbamazepine (CBZ). The effects of varying current density on the removal of PhACs (AMX, DCF and CBZ) and conventional pollutants (chemical oxygen demand (COD), dissolved organic carbon (DOC), humic substances, ammonia nitrogen (NH4-N), nitrate nitrogen (NO3-N) and orthophosphate (PO4-P) species) were examined. High COD and DOC removal efficiencies (~100%) were obtained in all the experimental runs regardless of applied current density. In contrast, enhanced removal efficiencies for AMX, DCF and CBZ were achieved at high current densities. Membrane fouling rate in eMBR with respect to conventional MBR was reduced by 24, 44 and 45% at current densities of 0.3, 0.5 and 1.15 mA/cm2, respectively. The mechanism for pharmaceutical removal in this study proceeded by: (1) charge neutralization between negatively-charged pharmaceutical compounds and positive electro-generated aluminium coagulants to form larger particles and (2) size exclusion by membrane filtration.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)732-740
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 20 Nov 2019


  • Electro MBR
  • Emerging contaminants
  • Fouling control
  • Pharmaceutical active compounds
  • Wastewater treatment


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