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Bioresource Technology
Vol. 195, 2015, Pages: 83–88

Effects of pre-fermentation and pulsed-electric-field treatment of primary sludge in microbial electrochemical cells

Dongwon Ki, Prathap Parameswaran, Sudeep C. Popat, Bruce E. Rittmann, CÚsar I. Torres

Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology, Biodesign Institute, Arizona State University, P.O. Box 875701, Tempe, AZ 85287-5701, USA.


The aim of this study was to investigate the combination of two technologies – pulsed electric field (PEF) pre-treatment and semi-continuous pre-fermentation of primary sludge (PS) – to produce volatile fatty acids (VFAs) as the electron donor for microbial electrolysis cells (MECs). Pre-fermentation with a 3-day solids retention time (SRT) led to the maximum generation of VFAs, with or without pretreatment of the PS through pulsed-electric-fields (PEF). PEF treatment before fermentation enhanced the accumulation of the preferred VFA, acetate, by 2.6-fold. Correspondingly, MEC anodes fed with centrate from 3-day pre-fermentation of PEF-treated PS had a maximum current density ∼3.1 A/m2, which was 2.4-fold greater than the control pre-fermented centrate. Over the full duration of batch MEC experiments, using pre-fermented centrate led to successful performance in terms of Coulombic efficiency (95%), Coulombic recovery (80%), and COD-removal efficiency (85%).

Keywords: Two-stage anaerobic treatment; Pre-treatment; Pre-fermentation; Microbial electrolysis cell.

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