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  Sam Settle

Postgraduate Student

Developing large-scale microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) for treatment of sludge return liquors


Bioelectrochemical systems, such as microbial electrolysis cells (MECs), are a novel technology which can promote a circular economy by yielding energy-rich hydrogen from anaerobic treatment of wastewater. Most research on these systems has been conducted at lab-scale using synthetic wastewaters with a handful of pilot-scale reactors operated with real wastewaters at Newcastle University which have provided a proof of concept for hydrogen generation at ambient temperaturesThree significant barriers are impeding commercial implementation of MECs: low performance when treating real wastewater (poor hydrogen yields and energy recovery), high variability between identical electrodes/reactors and high material costs. Hence, this project will aim to:  


  • Develop practical sterilisation techniques to eliminate hydrogen scavengers and improve hydrogen production. 

  • Optimize input voltage at pilot-scale using sludge return liquor (a high strength by-product of dewatered digested sludge). 

  • Test and monitor the performance of cheaper electrode materials (e.g recycled carbon fibre). 

  • Explore reactor design by investigating the influence of channel width on current density and hydrogen production using an existing CFD model. 

  • Develop strategies for optimum biofilm formation and reducing variability using a high number of replica reactors and microbial gene-sequencing analysis to identify differences between good and bad performing systems. 





 Last modified: 09-Mar-2022