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Issue 10, 2018
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Urine-powered synergy of nutrient recovery and urine purification in a microbial electrochemical system

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Abstract

This study demonstrates that the chemical energy contained in human urine can synergize the in situ nutrient recovery and purification of urine itself. This process was achieved using a urine-powered microbial electrochemical system named U-Power, which can provide a maximum power density of 21.3 W m−3via the degradation of fresh human urine. Urea hydrolysis was induced by anodic microorganisms and further accelerated by the electrical potential inside U-Power to provide ammonium and balance the pH in the anode. Driven by the electrical potential generated by U-Power, the NH4+ and PO43− contained in urine migrated into the high nutrient concentration recovery solution. On average, 93.8% of organics, 73.1% of nitrogen and 86.2% of phosphorus were removed, along with recovery concentrations of 1234 mg L−1 nitrogen and 101 mg L−1 phosphorus. Both the above purification and recovery processes require no energy input but output a satisfactory power density among all present urine treatment studies, together with an average current efficiency of 178% and a coulombic efficiency of 26%. By achieving the triple benefits of energy-positive recovery of nutrients from urine, avoiding the complicated and energy-intensive process of nutrient removal in downstream wastewater treatment facilities, and avoiding the energy and hygiene issues combined with the storage and reuse of urine, U-Power represents a promising tool to pave the way for a sustainable water–energy–nutrient nexus.

Graphical abstract: Urine-powered synergy of nutrient recovery and urine purification in a microbial electrochemical system

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Supplementary files

Article information


Submitted
13 May 2018
Accepted
09 Aug 2018
First published
17 Aug 2018

Environ. Sci.: Water Res. Technol., 2018,4, 1427-1438
Article type
Paper

Urine-powered synergy of nutrient recovery and urine purification in a microbial electrochemical system

Y. Gao, D. Sun, H. Wang, L. Lu, H. Ma, L. Wang, Z. J. Ren, P. Liang, X. Zhang, X. Chen and X. Huang, Environ. Sci.: Water Res. Technol., 2018, 4, 1427
DOI: 10.1039/C8EW00306H

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