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Bioresource Technology

Metals removal and recovery in bioelectrochemical systems: A review

Y.V. Nancharaiah, S. Venkata Mohan, P.N.L. Lens

Biofouling and Biofilm Processes Section of Water and Steam Chemistry Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Kalpakkam 603102, Tamil Nadu, India.


Metal laden wastes and contamination pose a threat to ecosystem well being and human health. Metal containing waste streams are also a valuable resource for recovery of precious and scarce elements. Although biological methods are inexpensive and effective for treating metal wastewaters and in situ bioremediation of metal(loid) contamination, little progress has been made towards metal(loid) recovery. Bioelectrochemical systems are emerging as a new technology platform for removal and recovery of metal ions from metallurgical wastes, process streams and wastewaters. Biodegradation of organic matter by electroactive biofilms at the anode has been successfully coupled to cathodic reduction of metal ions. Until now, leaching of Co(II) from LiCoO2 particles, and removal of metal ions i.e. Co(III/II), Cr(VI), Cu(II), Hg(II), Ag(I), Se(IV), and Cd(II) from aqueous solutions has been demonstrated. This article reviews the state of art research of bioelectrochemical systems for removal and recovery of metal(loid) ions and pertaining removal mechanisms.

Graphical abstract

Keywords: Bioelectrochemical treatment (BET); Biorecovery; Heavy metals; Microbial fuel cells; Wastewater treatment.

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