Reactor performance in terms of COD and nitrogen removal and bacterial community structure of a three-stage rotating bioelectrochemical contactor.Water Res. 2013 Feb 01; 47(2):881-94.WR
Integrating microbial fuel cell (MFC) into rotating biological contactor (RBC) creates an opportunity for enhanced removal of COD and nitrogen coupled with energy generation from wastewater. In this study, a three-stage rotating bioelectrochemical contactor (referred to as RBC-MFC unit) integrating MFC with RBC technology was constructed for simultaneous removal of carbonaceous and nitrogenous compounds and electricity generation from a synthetic medium containing acetate and ammonium. The performance of the RBC-MFC unit was compared to a control reactor (referred to as RBC unit) that was operated under the same conditions but without current generation (i.e. open-circuit mode). The effect of hydraulic loading rate (HLR) and COD/N ratio on the performance of the two units was investigated. At low (3.05 gCOD g⁻¹N) and high COD/N ratio (6.64 gCOD g⁻¹N), both units achieved almost similar COD and ammonia-nitrogen removal. However, the RBC-MFC unit achieved significantly higher denitrification and nitrogen removal compared to the RBC unit indicating improved denitrification at the cathode due to current flow. The average voltage under 1000 Ω external resistance ranged between 0.03 and 0.30 V and between 0.02 and 0.21 V for stages 1 and 2 of the RBC-MFC unit. Pyrosequencing analysis of bacterial 16S rRNA gene revealed high bacterial diversity at the anode and cathode of both units. Genera that play a role in nitrification (Nitrospira; Nitrosomonas), denitrification (Comamonas; Thauera) and electricity generation (Geobacter) were identified at the electrodes. Geobacter was only detected on the anode of the RBC-MFC unit. Nitrifiers and denitrifiers were more abundant in the RBC-MFC unit compared to the RBC unit and were largely present on the cathode of both units suggesting that most of the nitrogen removal occurred at the cathode.