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Contrasting roles of phenol and pyrocatechol on the degradation of 4-chlorophenol in a photocatalytic–biological reactor


Intimate coupling of photocatalysis and biodegradation (ICPB) provides superior treatment for the degradation of bio-recalcitrant compounds, such as chlorophenol. Photocatalytically generated intermediates can be promptly used by the enclosed biofilms. Chlorophenol degradation can theoretically be accelerated by a co-substrate or be compromised by the competition for photocatalytic reactive oxygen species (ROS); however, studies to examine the comparison are limited in number. Non-chlorinated phenols commonly co-exist in real wastewater; thus, we evaluated the influence of phenol (hard to photo-oxidize) and pyrocatechol (easy to photo-oxidize) on the degradation of 4-chlorophenol (4CP). The removal efficiency of 4CP was 51%, which increased to 62% after phenol addition. Meanwhile, the dechlorination efficiency of 4CP increased from 47 to 63%; similarly, the living/dead cell ratio increased from 49/51 to 79/21. However, pyrocatechol addition led to a decrease in 4CP removal efficiency to 32% and a reduction in living/dead cell ratio to 35/65. The differences in the results were attributed to the extra electron donors provided by the photodegraded products of phenol to bacteria, which enhanced 4CP degradation; meanwhile, pyrocatechol competed with 4CP for ROS, thus inhibiting its degradation. Competition for ROS and co-substrate properties should be considered in the treatment of phenolic wastewater by ICPB.

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The authors thank the National Natural Science Foundation of China (51578117), Development Plan Project of Science and Technology of Jilin Province (201401·01159JC), Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (2412016KJ011), and State Key Laboratory of Urban Water Resource and Environment, Harbin Institute of Technology (QA201418) for their financial support.

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Correspondence to Dandan Zhou.

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Responsible editor: Suresh Pillai

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Zhang, C., Fu, L., Xu, Z. et al. Contrasting roles of phenol and pyrocatechol on the degradation of 4-chlorophenol in a photocatalytic–biological reactor. Environ Sci Pollut Res 24, 24725–24731 (2017).

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  • Phenol
  • Pyrocatechol
  • Chlorophenol
  • Photocatalysis
  • Biodegradation
  • Co-substrate