Integrated Desalination and Wastewater Treatment Systems

Author(s): Kokabian, B.; Blair, M.; Gude, V.

Water, energy and environment play a vital role in the sustainability of mankind. Environmental degradation associated with water and energy production/supply processes is the immediate concern faced by many parts of the world. Utilizing wastewater and produced waters as resources to provide for potable water and energy needs could serve as a sustainable alternative to mitigate environmental degradation. Towards this goal, microbial desalination cells allow for efficient wastewater treatment combined with electricity generation and desalination of saline waters. The premise for this research is based on the principles that the bio-electrochemical (BES) systems convert wastewaters into treated effluents while producing electricity and ionic species migration within the system facilitates desalination. A microbial desalination cell (MDC) can be constructed by including an additional saline water chamber in a microbial fuel cell using anode and cathode exchange membranes. Domestic wastewater can serve as a substrate provider while air cathodes can provide oxygen to accept electrons. A new concept to provide in-situ oxygen generation in the cathode section by algae to increase electron mobility (i.e. electric current) in microbial desalination cells is presented in this paper. Treated wastewater in the anode chamber will be allowed to pass through the cathode chamber to serve as CO2 and nutrient rich medium for algal biomass growth and in-situ oxygen generation. This process eliminates current issues encountered in microbial desalination cells such as salt accumulation in treated wastewater, pH drop and rise in anode and cathode chambers and provision of strong electron acceptors such as oxygen. This paper presents the results from experimental studies and energy analysis on the feasibility of algal microbial desalination cells.
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