Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 24, Issue 33, pp 26040–26048 | Cite as

Simultaneous energy generation and UV quencher removal from landfill leachate using a microbial fuel cell

  • Syeed Md Iskander
  • John T. Novak
  • Brian Brazil
  • Zhen HeEmail author
Research Article


The presence of UV quenching compounds in landfill leachate can negatively affect UV disinfection in a wastewater treatment plant when leachate is co-treated. Herein, a microbial fuel cell (MFC) was investigated to remove UV quenchers from a landfill leachate with simultaneous bioelectricity generation. The key operating parameters including hydraulic retention time (HRT), anolyte recirculation rate, and external resistance were systematically studied to maximize energy recovery and UV absorbance reduction. It was found that nearly 50% UV absorbance was reduced under a condition of HRT 40 days, continuous anolyte recirculation, and 10 Ω external resistance. Further analysis showed a total reduction of organics by 75.3%, including the reduction of humic acids, fulvic acids, and hydrophilic fraction concentration as TOC. The MFC consumed 0.056 kWh m−3 by its pump system for recirculation and oxygen supply. A reduced HRT of 20 days with periodical anode recirculation (1 hour in every 24 hours) and 39 Ω external resistance (equal to the internal resistance of the MFC) resulted in the highest net energy of 0.123 kWh m−3. Granular activated carbon (GAC) was used as an effective post-treatment step and could achieve 89.1% UV absorbance reduction with 40 g L−1. The combined MFC and GAC treatment could reduce 92.9% of the UV absorbance and remove 89.7% of the UV quenchers. The results of this study would encourage further exploration of using MFCs as an energy-efficient method for removing UV quenchers from landfill leachate.


Landfill leachate UV absorbance UV quenchers Energy production Microbial fuel cell 



This work was financially supported by a grant from the Environmental Research and Education Foundation. The authors would like to thank Mr. Melvin Wyatt (Waste Management, Inc.) for his help with leachate collection.

Supplementary material

11356_2017_231_MOESM1_ESM.docx (43 kb)
ESM 1. Change in organic concentrations after MFC treatment of leachate for different operating conditions and change in organic concentrations after 40 g L-1 GAC treatment of the effluent of C4 are shown in Table S1-2. Chemical oxygen demand removal after 12 hours of GAC treatment of the MFC treated leachate (effluent from C4) is shown in Fig. S1. (DOCX 43 kb)


  1. APHA, WPCF, AWWA (2005) Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater, 21st edn. American Public Health Association (APHA), Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  2. Christensen JB, Jensen DL, Gron C, Filip Z, Christensen TH (1998) Characterization of the dissolved organic carbon in landfill leachate-polluted groundwater. Water Res 32:125–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cui Y, Wu Q, Yang M, Cui F (2016) Three-dimensional excitation-emission matrix fluorescence spectroscopy and fractions of dissolved organic matter change in landfill leachate by biological treatment. Environ Sci Pollut Res 23:793–799CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dahlen J, Bertilsson S, Pettersson C (1996) Effects of UV-A irradiation on dissolved organic matter in humic surface waters. Environ Int 22:501–506CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Damiano L, Jambeck JR, Ringelberg DB (2014) Municipal solid waste landfill leachate treatment and electricity production using microbial fuel cells. Appl Biochem Biotechnol 173:472–485CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Foo KY, Hameed BH (2009) An overview of landfill leachate treatment via activated carbon adsorption process. J Hazard Mater 171:54–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Ganesh K, Jambeck JR (2013) Treatment of landfill leachate using microbial fuel cells: alternative anodes and semi-continuous operation. Bioresour Technol 139:383–387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gao J, Oloibiri V, Chys M, Audenaert W, Decostere B, He Y, Van Langenhove H, Demeestere K, Van Hulle SWH (2015) The present status of landfill leachate treatment and its development trend from a technological point of view. Rev Environ Sci Biol 14:93–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ge Z, Li J, Xiao L, Tong YR, He Z (2014) Recovery of electrical energy in microbial fuel cells. Environ Sci Technol Lett 1:137–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ghosh P, Gupta A, Thakur IS (2015) Combined chemical and toxicological evaluation of leachate from municipal solid waste landfill sites of Delhi, India. Environ Sci Pollut Res 22:9148–9158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gupta A, Zhao RZ, Novak JT, Goldsmith CD (2014) Application of Fenton’s reagent as a polishing step for removal of UV quenching organic constituents in biologically treated landfill leachates. Chemosphere 105:82–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. He Z (2017) Development of microbial fuel cells needs to go beyond “power density”. ACS Energy Lett 2:700–702CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Imai A, Fukushima T, Matsushige K, Kim YH, Choi K (2002) Characterization of dissolved organic matter in effluents from wastewater treatment plants. Water Res 36:859–870CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Iskander SM, Brazil B, Novak JT, He Z (2016) Resource recovery from landfill leachate using bioelectrochemical systems: opportunities, challenges, and perspectives. Bioresour Technol 201:347–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jung C, Deng Y, Zhao R, Torrens K (2017) Chemical oxidation for mitigation of UV-quenching substances (UVQS) from municipal landfill leachate: Fenton process versus ozonation. Water Res 108:260–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kim JR, Song YE, Munussami G, Kim C, Jeon BH (2015) Recent applications of bioelectrochemical system for useful resource recovery: retrieval of nutrient and metal from wastewater. Geosyst Eng 18:173–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kliaugaite D, Yasadi K, Euverink GJ, Bijmans MFM, Racys V (2013) Electrochemical removal and recovery of humic-like substances from wastewater. Sep Purif Technol 108:37–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Leenheer JA (1981) Comprehensive approach to preparative isolation and fractionation of dissolved organic carbon from natural waters and wastewaters. Environ Sci Technol 15:578–587CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Logan BE, Hamelers B, Rozendal RA, Schrorder U, Keller J, Freguia S, Aelterman P, Verstraete W, Rabaey K (2006) Microbial fuel cells: methodology and technology. Environ Sci Technol 40:5181–5192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mahmoud M, Parameswaran P, Torres CI, Rittmann BE (2014) Fermentation pre-treatment of landfill leachate for enhanced electron recovery in a microbial electrolysis cell. Bioresour Technol 151:151–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ozkaya B, Cetinkaya AY, Cakmakci M, Karadag D, Sahinkaya E (2013) Electricity generation from young landfill leachate in a microbial fuel cell with a new electrode material. Bioprocess Biosyst Eng 36:399–405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Puig S, Serra M, Coma M, Cabre M, Balaguer MD, Colprim J (2011) Microbial fuel cell application in landfill leachate treatment. J Hazard Mater 185:763–767CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Qin M, Molitor H, Brazil B, Novak JT, He Z (2015) Recovery of nitrogen and water from landfill leachate by a microbial electrolysis cell—forward osmosis system. Bioresour Technol 200:485–492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Renou S, Givaudan JG, Poulain S, Dirassouyan F, Moulin P (2008) Landfill leachate treatment: review and opportunity. J Hazard Mater 150:468–493CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Rozendal RA, Hamelers HVM, Rabaey K, Keller J, Buisman CJN (2008) Towards practical implementation of bioelectrochemical wastewater treatment. Trends Biotechnol 26:450–459CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Thurman EM, Malcolm RL (1981) Preparative isolation of aquatic humic substances. Environ Sci Technol 15:463–466CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Wang HW, Wang YN, Li XY, Sun YJ, Wu H, Chen DL (2016) Removal of humic substances from reverse osmosis (RO) and nanofiltration (NF) concentrated leachate using continuously ozone generation-reaction treatment equipment. Waste Manag 56:271–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Wu YY, Zhou SQ, Qin FH, Peng HP, Lai YL, Lin LM (2010) Removal of humic substances from landfill leachate by Fenton oxidation and coagulation. Process Saf Environ 88:276–284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Xia Y, He PJ, Pu HX, Lu F, Shao LM, Zhang H (2016) Inhibition effects of high calcium concentration on anaerobic biological treatment of MSW leachate. Environ Sci Pollut Res 23:7942–7948CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Xu J, Long YY, Shen DS, Feng HJ, Chen T (2017) Optimization of Fenton treatment process for degradation of refractory organics in pre-coagulated leachate membrane concentrates. J Hazard Mater 323:674–680CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. You SJ, Zhao QL, Jiang JQ, Zhang JN, Zhao SQ (2006) Sustainable approach for leachate treatment: electricity generation in microbial fuel cell. J Environ Sci Health A 41:2721–2734CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Zhang F, He Z (2013) A cooperative microbial fuel cell system for waste treatment and energy recovery. Environ Technol 34:1905–1913CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Zhang H, Choi HJ, Huang CP (2005) Optimization of Fenton process for the treatment of landfill leachate. J Hazard Mater 125:166–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Zhang JN, Zhao QL, You SJ, Jiang JQ, Ren NQ (2008) Continuous electricity production from leachate in a novel upflow air-cathode membrane-free microbial fuel cell. Water Sci Technol 57:1017–1021CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Zhang L, Li AM, Lu YF, Yan L, Zhong S, Deng CL (2009) Characterization and removal of dissolved organic matter (DOM) from landfill leachate rejected by nanofiltration. Waste Manag 29:1035–1040CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Zhang F, Jacobson KS, Torres P, He Z (2010) Effects of anolyte recirculation rates and catholytes on electricity generation in a litre-scale upflow microbial fuel cell. Energy Environ Sci 3:1347–1352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Zhang GD, Jiao Y, Lee DJ (2015) A lab-scale anoxic/oxic-bioelectrochemical reactor for leachate treatments. Bioresour Technol 186:97–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Zhao RZ, Novak JT, Goldsmith CD (2012) Evaluation of on-site biological treatment for landfill leachates and its impact: a size distribution study. Water Res 46:3837–3848CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Zou S, He Z (2016) Enhancing wastewater reuse by forward osmosis with self-diluted commercial fertilizers as draw solutes. Water Res 99:235–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.Waste ManagementGaithersburgUSA

Personalised recommendations