Coupling anaerobic fluidized membrane bioreactors with microbial electrolysis cells towards improved wastewater reuse and energy recovery

Olga El Kik, Lea Issa, Krishna Katuri, Pascal Saikaly, Ibraim Alameddine, Mutasem El-Fadel, Pascal Saikaly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Anaerobic Membrane Bioreactors (AnMBRs) combine the advantages of anaerobic processes and MBR technology to improve effluent quality and energy recovery. However, these systems are associated with operational challenges such as membrane fouling and loss of dissolved methane that increases operation and energy expenses. In this study, a new configuration was developed combining AnMBRs with Microbial Electrolysis Cells (MECs). The effectiveness of the coupled AnFMBR-MEC system was tested by monitoring several indicators during the treatment of synthetic wastewater. The new configuration exhibited a 25-day shorter startup period, a 56% enhanced average methane yield, and a reduced membrane fouling with a maximum transmembrane pressure value nearly 6.5 folds lower than that exhibited by the AnFMBR alone. AnFMBR-MEC had an average CE of 40% and both reactors achieved around 90% COD removal. Similar bacterial communities existed in both reactors but with different relative abundance and localization. In the AnFMBR-MEC, the Direct Interspecies Electron Transfer was the likely dominant route for acetate consumption due to the abundance of Geobacter and Methanosarcina on the granular activated carbon and in suspension. The new system offers a promising technology with less fouling and improved resource recovery from wastewater due to the presence of different environmental niches (GAC, anode, cathode) for microbial colonization and growth, which resulted in the reduction of biomass in suspension and the proliferation of electroactive bacteria and methanogens as biofilms.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105974
JournalJournal of Environmental Chemical Engineering
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2021-07-16
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): FCC/1/1971-05-01
Acknowledgements: Special thanks are extended to Dar Al-Handasah (Shair & Partners) endowment for its support to the graduate programs in Engineering at the American University of Beirut. Also, this work was supported by Center Competitive Funding Program (FCC/1/1971-05-01) from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) to P.E.S.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Chemical Engineering (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Coupling anaerobic fluidized membrane bioreactors with microbial electrolysis cells towards improved wastewater reuse and energy recovery'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this