Electrochemical Remediation Technologies for Waters Contaminated by Pharmaceutical Residues

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Abstract

The presence of pharmaceutical micropollutants in the environment has become of major concern in the last decades. Many electrochemical technologies are currently available for the remediation of waters contaminated by refractory organic pollutants. They are mainly defined as eco-friendly water treatments since the main reagent involved is a clean species, the electron. Recent reviews have focused on the destruction of pharmaceutical residues by the application of methods like ozonation and advanced oxidation processes. Here, we present an overview on electrochemical methods devised for the removal of pharmaceutical residues from both synthetic solutions and real pharmaceutical wastewaters. The fundamentals and experimental set-ups involved in different technologies such as electrocoagulation, anodic oxidation, electro-oxidation with active chlorine, electro-Fenton, photoelectro-Fenton, and photoelectrocatalysis, among others, are discussed. Progress on the promising solar photoelectro-Fenton process devised and further developed in our laboratory is especially highlighted and documented. The destruction of the individual pharmaceuticals and the abatement of total organic carbon or reduction of chemical oxygen demand allow the comparison between the different methods. In some cases, the routes for the complete degradation of the initial pollutants are discussed.