Electrochemical iron production to enhance anaerobic membrane treatment of wastewater

Zhetai Hu, Min Zheng, Shihu Hu, Pei-Ying Hong, Xueqing Zhang, Veljko Prodanovic, Kefeng Zhang, Ilje Pikaar, Liu Ye, Ana Deletic, Zhiguo Yuan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Although iron salts such as iron(III) chloride (FeCl3) have widespread application in wastewater treatment, safety concerns limit their use, due to the corrosive nature of concentrated solutions. This study demonstrates that local, electrochemical generation of iron is a viable alternative to the use of iron salts. Three laboratory systems with anaerobic membrane processes were set up to treat real wastewater; two systems used the production of either in-situ or ex-situ electrochemical iron (as Fe2+ and Fe2+(Fe3+)2O4, respectively), while the other system served as a control. These systems were operated for over one year to assess the impact of electrochemically produced iron on system performance. The results showed that dosing of electrochemical iron significantly reduced sulfide concentration in effluent and hydrogen sulfide content in biogas, and mitigated organics-based membrane fouling, all of which are critical issues inherently related to sustainability of anaerobic wastewater treatment. The electrochemical iron strategy can generate multiple benefits for wastewater management including increased removal efficiencies for total and volatile suspended solids, chemical oxygen demand and phosphorus. The rate of methane production also increased with electrochemically produced iron. Economic analysis revealed the viability of electrochemical iron with total cost reduced by one quarter to a third compared with using FeCl3. These benefits indicate that electrochemical iron dosing can greatly enhance the overall operation and performance of anaerobic membrane processes, and this particularly facilitates wastewater management in a decentralized scenario.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119202
JournalWater research
StatePublished - Oct 7 2022

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-10-13
Acknowledgements: This study was supported by the Centre of Excellence for NEOM Research at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). Mr. Zhetai Hu is supported by the China Scholarship Council (CSC). Associate Prof. Ilje Pikaar acknowledges the support of Australian Research Council Linkage Project - Special Research Initiative: PFAS Remediation Research Program (SR180100040). Prof. Zhiguo Yuan is the recipient of Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship FL170100086. The authors thank Dr. Eloise Larsen for assistance with manuscript editing and Mr. Markus Fluggen for support with the set-up of the systems. Dr. Miriam Yap Gabon is acknowledged for the design, setup and optimization of the experimental setup and providing training for the electrochemical production of MNP.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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