Nitrogen removal is needed in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) for the treatment of most waste streams. Current designs couple biological denitrification with side-stream or combined nitrification sustained by upstream or direct aeration, which negates some of the energy-saving benefits of MFC technology. To achieve simultaneous nitrification and denitrification, without extra energy input for aeration, the air cathode of a single-chamber MFC was pre-enriched with a nitrifying biofilm. Diethylamine-functionalized polymer (DEA) was used as the Pt catalyst binder on the cathode to improve the differential nitrifying biofilm establishment. With pre-enriched nitrifying biofilm, MFCs with the DEA binder had an ammonia removal efficiency of up to 96.8% and a maximum power density of 900 ± 25 mW/m 2, compared to 90.7% and 945 ± 42 mW/m 2 with a Nafion binder. A control with Nafion that lacked nitrifier pre-enrichment removed less ammonia and had lower power production (54.5% initially, 750 mW/m 2). The nitrifying biofilm MFCs had lower Coulombic efficiencies (up to 27%) than the control reactor (up to 36%). The maximum total nitrogen removal efficiency reached 93.9% for MFCs with the DEA binder. The DEA binder accelerated nitrifier biofilm enrichment on the cathode, and enhanced system stability. These results demonstrated that with proper cathode pre-enrichment it is possible to simultaneously remove organics and ammonia in a single-chamber MFC without supplemental aeration.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecological Modeling
- Water Science and Technology
- Waste Management and Disposal