Anti-fouling performance and mechanism of anthraquinone/polypyrrole composite modified membrane cathode in a novel MFC–aerobic MBR coupled system
In this study, an aerobic membrane bioreactor (MBR) equipped with anthraquinone–disulphonate/polypyrrole (AQDS/PPY) composite modified polyester (PT) flat membrane serving as the cathode of a dual-chamber microbial fuel cell (MFC) was developed for wastewater treatment, energy recovery and membrane fouling mitigation. Various physicochemical characteristic parameters were investigated to determine the surface properties of the AQDS/PPY/PT membrane. During most of the operation period, the chemical oxygen demand and NH4+–N removal efficiencies of this novel MFC–MBR coupled system averaged 92.5% and 70.6%, respectively. Over the hydraulic retention time of 11.58 h and the external resistance of 1000 Ω, a maximum power density of 0.35 W m−3 and a current density of 2.62 A m−3 were obtained, meanwhile, the membrane fouling mitigation achieved the best status the H2O2 concentration in membrane effluent also reached the highest value of 2.1 mg L−1. The effective membrane fouling mitigation was attributed mainly to the continuous self-generated bio-electricity of MFC, which not only accelerates the back-diffusion of negative charged foulants away from the membrane surface through the electrostatic repulsion, but also realizes membrane chemical cleaning through the in situ electrogenerated H2O2 and even ˙OH radicals on the membrane surface and/or inside the membrane pore from the self-sustainable heterogeneous electro-Fenton process. Though the electricity recovery of the MFC–MBR coupled system was much lower than other high-output MFC systems, this study provided a new insight into the membrane anti-fouling mechanism and will arouse extensive interests to explore more high-efficiency catalytic membrane materials to maximize power output and minimize membrane fouling.