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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2011 Mar;89(6):2053-63. doi: 10.1007/s00253-011-3130-9. Epub 2011 Feb 9.

Performance of a pilot-scale continuous flow microbial electrolysis cell fed winery wastewater.

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  • 1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Penn State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.


A pilot-scale (1,000 L) continuous flow microbial electrolysis cell was constructed and tested for current generation and COD removal with winery wastewater. The reactor contained 144 electrode pairs in 24 modules. Enrichment of an exoelectrogenic biofilm required ~60 days, which is longer than typically needed for laboratory reactors. Current generation was enhanced by ensuring adequate organic volatile fatty acid content (VFA/SCOD ≥ 0.5) and by raising the wastewater temperature (31 ± 1°C). Once enriched, SCOD removal (62 ± 20%) was consistent at a hydraulic retention time of 1 day (applied voltage of 0.9 V). Current generation reached a maximum of 7.4 A/m(3) by the planned end of the test (after 100 days). Gas production reached a maximum of 0.19 ± 0.04 L/L/day, although most of the product gas was converted to methane (86 ± 6%). In order to increase hydrogen recovery in future tests, better methods will be needed to isolate hydrogen gas produced at the cathode. These results show that inoculation and enrichment procedures are critical to the initial success of larger-scale systems. Acetate amendments, warmer temperatures, and pH control during startup were found to be critical for proper enrichment of exoelectrogenic biofilms and improved reactor performance.

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