Environmental Science

Energy and wastewater treatment, too

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Science  13 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6223, pp. 733
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6223.733-f

Treating wastewater removes organic matter that would otherwise harm the environment when released back into waterways. New bioelectrochemical systems provide the added benefit of using this organic matter as a fuel for bacteria to generate hydrogen gas or electricity during wastewater treatment. However, concerns remain about whether the other functions of wastewater treatment, including reducing the amount of trace organic compounds released back into the environment, will be lost. Werner et al. tested the breakdown of low levels of pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and antibiotics in microbial fuel cells and microbial electrolysis cells. Although some of these contaminants persisted after passing through the microbial reactors, the breakdown efficiency was similar to that of most modern wastewater treatment methods.

Water Res. 10.1016/j.watres.2015.01.013 (2015).

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