Reactor performance in terms of COD and nitrogen removal and bacterial community structure of a three-stage rotating bioelectrochemical contactor

Rassil R. Sayess, Pascal E. Saikaly, Mutasem El-Fadel, Dong Li, Lucy Semerjian

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    86 Scopus citations

    Abstract

    Integrating microbial fuel cell (MFC) into rotating biological contactor (RBC) creates an opportunity for enhanced removal of COD and nitrogen coupled with energy generation from wastewater. In this study, a three-stage rotating bioelectrochemical contactor (referred to as RBC-MFC unit) integrating MFC with RBC technology was constructed for simultaneous removal of carbonaceous and nitrogenous compounds and electricity generation from a synthetic medium containing acetate and ammonium. The performance of the RBC-MFC unit was compared to a control reactor (referred to as RBC unit) that was operated under the same conditions but without current generation (i.e. open-circuit mode). The effect of hydraulic loading rate (HLR) and COD/N ratio on the performance of the two units was investigated. At low (3.05 gCOD g-1N) and high COD/N ratio (6.64 gCOD g-1N), both units achieved almost similar COD and ammonia-nitrogen removal. However, the RBC-MFC unit achieved significantly higher denitrification and nitrogen removal compared to the RBC unit indicating improved denitrification at the cathode due to current flow. The average voltage under 1000 Ω external resistance ranged between 0.03 and 0.30 V and between 0.02 and 0.21 V for stages 1 and 2 of the RBC-MFC unit. Pyrosequencing analysis of bacterial 16S rRNA gene revealed high bacterial diversity at the anode and cathode of both units. Genera that play a role in nitrification (Nitrospira; Nitrosomonas), denitrification (Comamonas; Thauera) and electricity generation (Geobacter) were identified at the electrodes. Geobacter was only detected on the anode of the RBC-MFC unit. Nitrifiers and denitrifiers were more abundant in the RBC-MFC unit compared to the RBC unit and were largely present on the cathode of both units suggesting that most of the nitrogen removal occurred at the cathode.

    Original languageBritish English
    Pages (from-to)881-894
    Number of pages14
    JournalWater Research
    Volume47
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    StatePublished - 1 Feb 2013

    Keywords

    • 16S rRNA gene pyrosequencing
    • Denitrification
    • Microbial fuel cell
    • Nitrification
    • Rotating bioelectrochemical contactor
    • Rotating biological contactor

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