Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering

, Volume 9, Issue 6, pp 1084–1095 | Cite as

Microbial electrolysis cells with biocathodes and driven by microbial fuel cells for simultaneous enhanced Co(II) and Cu(II) removal

  • Jingya Shen
  • Yuliang Sun
  • Liping Huang
  • Jinhui Yang
Research Article


Cobalt and copper recovery from aqueous Co (II) and Cu(II) is one critical step for cobalt and copper wastewaters treatment. Previous tests have primarily examined Cu(II) and Co(II) removal in microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) with abiotic cathodes and driven by microbial fuel cell (MFCs). However, Cu(II) and Co(II) removal rates were still slow. Here we report MECs with biocathodes and driven by MFCs where enhanced removal rates of 6.0±0.2 mg·L–1·h–1 for Cu(II) at an initial concentration of 50 mg·L–1 and 5.3±0.4 mg·L–1 h–1 for Co(II) at an initial 40 mg·L–1 were achieved, 1.7 times and 3.3 times as high as those in MECs with abiotic cathodes and driven by MFCs. Species of Cu(II) was reduced to pure copper on the cathodes of MFCs whereas Co(II) was removed associated with microorganisms on the cathodes of the connected MECs. Higher Cu(II) concentrations and smaller working volumes in the cathode chambers of MFCs further improved removal rates of Cu(II) (115.7 mg·L–1·h–1) and Co(II) (6.4 mg·L–1·h–1) with concomitantly achieving hydrogen generation (0.05±0.00 mol·moL–1 COD). Phylogenetic analysis on the biocathodes indicates Proteobacteria dominantly accounted for 67.9% of the total reads, followed by Firmicutes (14.0%), Bacteroidetes (6.1%), Tenericutes (2.5%), Lentisphaerae (1.4%), and Synergistetes (1.0%). This study provides a beneficial attempt to achieve simultaneous enhanced Cu(II) and Co(II) removal, and efficient Cu(II) and Co(II) wastewaters treatment without any external energy consumption.


biocathode microbial electrolysis cell microbial fuel cell Cu(II) removal Co(II) removal 


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Copyright information

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jingya Shen
    • 1
  • Yuliang Sun
    • 1
  • Liping Huang
    • 1
  • Jinhui Yang
    • 2
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Industrial Ecology and Environmental Engineering (Ministry of Education), School of Environmental Science and TechnologyDalian University of TechnologyDalianChina
  2. 2.Experiment Center of ChemistryDalian University of TechnologyDalianChina

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