Analysis of long-term performance and microbial community structure in bio-cathode microbial desalination cells

Abstract

A microbial desalination cell (MDC) could desalinate salt water without energy consumption and simultaneously generate bioenergy. Compared with an abiotic cathode MDC, an aerobic bio-cathode MDC is more sustainable and is less expensive to operate. In this study, the long-term operation (5500 h) performance of a bio-cathode MDC was investigated in which the power density, Coulombic efficiency, and salt removal rate were decreased by 71, 44, and 27 %, respectively. The primary reason for the system performance decrease was biofouling on the membranes, which increased internal resistance and reduced the ionic transfer and energy conversion efficiency. Changing membranes was an effective method to recover the MDC performance. The microbial community diversity in the MDC anode was low compared with that of the reported microbial fuel cell (MFC), while the abundance of Proteobacteria was 30 % higher. The content of Planctomycetes in the cathode biofilm sample was much higher than that in biofouling on the cation exchange membrane (CEM), indicating that Planctomycetes were relevant to cathode oxygen reduction.

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Acknowledgments

The authors acknowledge the financial support of the State Key Lab of Urban Water Resource and Environment at Harbin Institute of Technology (2015TS04), and the Major Science and Technology Program for Water Pollution Control and Treatment (No. 2014ZX07305001-005).

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Correspondence to Zhiqiang Chen.

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The manuscript is the original work of authors and it has not been previously submitted to Environmental Science and Pollution Research and other journals for simultaneous consideration. The manuscript has not been published previously (partly or in full). And, this study is not split up into several parts to increase the quantity of submissions and submitted to various journals or to one journal over time. No data have been fabricated or manipulated (including images) to support our conclusions. No data, text, or theories by others are presented as if they were the author’s own. All authors mutually agree for its submission in Environmental Science and Pollution Research. The publication is approved by all authors and tacitly or explicitly by the responsible authorities where the work was carried out.

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Zhang, H., Wen, Q., An, Z. et al. Analysis of long-term performance and microbial community structure in bio-cathode microbial desalination cells. Environ Sci Pollut Res 23, 5931–5940 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-015-5794-7

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Keywords

  • Microbial desalination cell (MDC)
  • Bio-cathode
  • Desalination
  • Biofouling
  • Microbial diversity
  • Membranes