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Integrated Photo-Bioelectrochemical System for Contaminants Removal and Bioenergy Production

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journal contribution
posted on 16.10.2012, 00:00 authored by Li Xiao, Erica B. Young, John A. Berges, Zhen He
An integrated photobioelectrochemical (IPB) system was developed by installing a microbial fuel cell (MFC) inside an algal bioreactor. This system achieves the simultaneous removal from a synthetic solution of organics (in the MFC) and nutrients (in the algal bioreactor), and the production of bioenergy in electricity and algal biomass through bioelectrochemical and microbiological processes. During the one-year operation, the IPB system removed more than 92% of chemical oxygen demand, 98% of ammonium nitrogen, and 82% of phosphate and produced a maximum power density of 2.2 W/m3 and 128 mg/L of algal biomass. The algal growth provided dissolved oxygen to the cathode reaction of the MFC, whereas electrochemical oxygen reduction on the MFC cathode buffered the pH of the algal growth medium (which was also the catholyte). The system performance was affected by illumination and dissolved oxygen. Initial energy analysis showed that the IPB system could theoretically produce enough energy to cover its consumption; however, further improvement of electricity production is desired. An analysis of the attached and suspended microbes in the cathode revealed diverse bacterial taxa typical of aquatic and soil bacterial communities with functional roles in contaminant degradation and nutrient cycling.