Life cycle assessment of high-rate anaerobic treatment, microbial fuel cells, and microbial electrolysis cells

Foley, Jeffrey M., Rozendal, Rene A., Hertle, Christopher K., Lant, Paul A. and Rabaey, Korneel (2010) Life cycle assessment of high-rate anaerobic treatment, microbial fuel cells, and microbial electrolysis cells. Environmental Science & Technology, 44 9: 3629-3637. doi:10.1021/es100125h

Author Foley, Jeffrey M.
Rozendal, Rene A.
Hertle, Christopher K.
Lant, Paul A.
Rabaey, Korneel
Title Life cycle assessment of high-rate anaerobic treatment, microbial fuel cells, and microbial electrolysis cells
Journal name Environmental Science & Technology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0013-936X
Publication date 2010-05
Year available 2010
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1021/es100125h
Volume 44
Issue 9
Start page 3629
End page 3637
Total pages 9
Place of publication United Kingdom
Publisher Pergamon
Collection year 2011
Language eng
Abstract Existing wastewater treatment options are generally perceived as energy intensive and environmentally unfriendly. Much attention has been focused on two new approaches in the past years, (i) microbial fuel cells and (ii) microbial electrolysis cells, which directly generate electrical current or chemical products, respectively, during wastewater treatment. These systems are commonly denominated as bioelectrochemical systems, and a multitude of claims have been made in the past regarding the environmental impact of these treatment options. However, an in-depth study backing these claims has not been performed. Here, we have conducted a life cycle assessment (LCA) to compare the environmental impact of three industrial wastewater treatment options, (i) anaerobic treatment with biogas generation, (ii) a microbial fuel cell treatment, with direct electricity generation, and (iii) a microbial electrolysis cell, with hydrogen peroxide production. Our analysis showed that a microbial fuel cell does not provide a significant environmental benefit relative to the “conventional” anaerobic treatment option. However, a microbial electrolysis cell provides significant environmental benefits through the displacement of chemical production by conventional means. Provided that the target conversion level of 1000 A·m−3 can be met, the decrease in greenhouse gas emissions and other environmentally harmful emissions (e.g., aromatic hydrocarbons) of the microbial electrolysis cell will be a key driver for the development of an industrial standard for this technology. Evidently, this assessment is highly dependent on the underlying assumptions, such as the used reactor materials and target performance. This provides a challenge and an opportunity for researchers in the field to select and develop appropriate and environmentally benign materials of construction, as well as demonstrate the required 1000 A·m−3 performance at pilot and full scale.
Keyword Waste-water Treatment
Sewage-treatment processes
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Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Online March 31, 2010

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collection: Official 2011 Collection
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Created: Sun, 16 May 2010, 00:06:38 EST