Recently, microbial electrochemical technologies (METs), such as microbial fuel cells (MFCs) and microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) have garnered interest as a chemical-free and energy efficient method of enhancing struvite precipitation [12-14]. METs consist of an anode, where anaerobic microbes oxidize organic matter and transfer electrons to an external circuit, and a cathode where the electrons and protons catalytically combine by reducing oxygen to water (MFC) or producing hydrogen gas (MEC). This talk will discuss preliminary results from a bench-scale MEC-FBR system (Figure 1) that demonstrate the potential for an MEC to enable economical pH control in an FBR struvite precipitation system. Net alkali generation rates of approximately 2.3 ± 1.5 mmol m‑2 h‑1 were observed in both DC and pulsed-potential MEC tests, which are of reasonable magnitude for typical applications. When only the electrical power input is considered, these experimental data translate to a per-mole cost of alkali generated by an MEC (~7¢ mol‑1) that is an order of magnitude lower than the cost of purchased NaOH (~87¢ mol‑1). A preliminary net present value (NPV) analysis of the entire MEC unit operation, including both capital and operating costs, suggests a reasonable rate of return can likely be achieved. As well, the data provide preliminary indication of the possibility of further cost advantages from the use of pulsed MEC potentials.
The authors acknowledge financial support from USEPA Contract No. EP-D-17-006.
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