Modelling microbial electrochemical technologies for wastewater treatment and bioenergy recovery

  • Tolutola Oyetunde

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


The global wastewater production is increasing due to rapid growth in population, industrialization and urbanization. Thus, there is an urgent need to develop energy-efficient wastewater treatment technologies. This is especially important for the UAE which has one of the world's largest waste production rates and very limited water resources. Microbial electrochemical technologies (METs) present a unique potential to utilize wastewater streams to efficiently produce water for re-use, as well as to provide a renewable source for many important chemicals. However, we are still a long way from commercial implementations of METs. Perhaps the most important challenge is the limited understanding of the bioelectrochemical phenomena involved which can greatly benefit from detailed mathematical modeling. This work aims at presenting contributions of significance towards modeling METs for practical applications. First, a generalized, robust and speed-efficient platform for model implementation was built. This is very crucial as most of the comprehensive MET models published in literature suffer from simulation speed limitations. Second, a novel model structure focusing on elucidating the chemistry and other electrical phenomena for a given level of bioelectroactivity was developed. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first attempt to model multiple bio-catalyzed electrode reactions in a multi-substrate, multi-population microbial system within a rigorous physico-chemical framework. This tool would no doubt prove valuable in evaluating the numerous different applications of METs that are currently under experimental investigation. Third, two case studies were simulated using the model structure: (1) the production of liquid biofuels from waste streams containing volatile fatty acids in a microbial electrolysis cell; and (2) bioelectrochemical perchlorate remediation. Important considerations for system design and operation are discussed.
Date of Award2014
Original languageAmerican English
SupervisorJorge Rodriguez (Supervisor)


  • Wastewater Treatment; Microbial Electrochemical Technologies; Bioelectrochemical.

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