Microbial electrolytic disinfection process for highly efficient Escherichia coli inactivation

Shaofeng Zhou, Shaobin Huang, Xiaohu Li, Irini Angelidaki, Yifeng Zhang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Water quality deterioration caused by a wide variety of recalcitrant organics and pathogenic microorganisms has become a serious concern worldwide. Bio-electro-Fenton systems have been considered as cost-effective and highly efficient water treatment platform technology. While it has been extensively studied for recalcitrant organics removal, its application potential towards water disinfection (e.g., inactivation of pathogens) is still unknown. This study investigated the inactivation of Escherichia coli in a microbial electrolysis cell based bio-electro-Fenton system (renamed as microbial electrolytic-Fenton cell) with the aim to broad the application of microbial electrochemistry. Results showed that a 4-log reduction of Escherichia coli (107 to hundreds CFU/mL) was achieved with an external applied voltage of 0.2 V, 0.3 mM Fe2+ and cathodic pH of 3.0. However, non-notable inactivation was observed in the control experiments without external voltage or Fe2+ dose. The disinfection effect was enhanced when cathode air flow rate increased from 7 to 41 mL/min and was also in proportion to the increase of Fe2+ concentration from 0.15 to 0.45 mmol/mL. Fatal cell membrane destruction by [rad]OH was identified as one potential mechanism for disinfection. This study successfully demonstrated the feasibility of bio-electro-Fenton process for pathogens inactivation, which offers insight for the future development of sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective biological water treatment technology.

Original languageEnglish
JournalChemical Engineering Journal
Pages (from-to)220-227
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2018


  • Advanced oxidation process
  • Bio-electro-Fenton reactions
  • Disinfection
  • Escherichia coli
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Microbial electrolysis cell

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