Bioelectrode-based approach for enhancing nitrate and nitrite removal and electricity generation from eutrophic lakes

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Nitrate and nitrite contamination of surface waters (e.g. lakes) has become a severe environmental and health problem, especially in developing countries. The recent demonstration of nitrate reduction at the cathode of microbial fuel cell (MFC) provides an opportunity to develop a new technology for nitrogen removal from surface waters. In this study, a sediment-type MFC based on two pieces of bioelectrodes was employed as a novel in situ applicable approach for nitrogen removal, as well as electricity production from eutrophic lakes. Maximum power density of 42 and 36 mW/m2 were produced respectively from nitrate- and nitrite-rich synthetic lake waters at initial concentration of 10 mg-N/L. Along with the electricity production a total nitrogen removal of 62% and 77% was accomplished, for nitrate and nitrite, respectively. The nitrogen removal was almost 4 times higher under close-circuit condition with biocathode, compared to either the open-circuit operation or with abiotic cathode. The mass balance on nitrogen indicates that most of the removed nitrate and nitrite (84.7±0.1% and 81.8±0.1%, respectively) was reduced to nitrogen gas. The nitrogen removal and power generation was limited by the dissolved oxygen (DO) level in the water and acetate level injected to the sediment. Excessive oxygen resulted in dramatically decrease of nitrogen removal efficiency and only 7.8% removal was obtained at DO level of 7.8 mg/l. The power generation and nitrogen removal increased with acetate level and was nearly saturated at 0.84 mg/g-sediment. This bioelectrode-based in situ approach is attractive not only due to the electricity production, but also due to no need of extra reactor construction, which may broaden the application possibilities of sediment MFC technology.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWater Research
Issue number19
Pages (from-to)6445-6453
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Bioelectrode
  • Sediment microbial fuel cell
  • Eutrophic lakes
  • In situ bioremediation
  • Nitrate and nitrite removel
  • Power generation

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