Energy Efficient Phosphorus Recovery by Microbial Electrolysis Cell Induced Calcium Phosphate Precipitation

Yang Lei, Mengyi Du, Philipp Kuntke, Michel Saakes, Renata van der Weijden*, Cees J.N. Buisman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Phosphorus (P) removal and recovery from waste streams is essential for a sustainable world. Here, we updated a previously developed abiotic electrochemical P recovery system to a bioelectrochemical system. The anode was inoculated with electroactive bacteria (electricigens) which are capable of oxidizing soluble organic substrates and releasing electrons. These electrons are then used for the reduction of water at the cathode, resulting in an increase of pH close to the cathode. Hence, phosphate can be removed with coexisting calcium ions as calcium phosphate at the surface of the cathode with a much lower energy input. Depending on the available substrate (sodium acetate) concentration, an average current density from 1.1 ± 0.1 to 6.6 ± 0.4 A/m 2 was achieved. This resulted in a P removal of 20.1 ± 1.5% to 73.9 ± 3.7%, a Ca removal of 10.5 ± 0.6% to 44.3 ± 1.7% and a Mg removal of 2.7 ± 1.9% to 16.3 ± 3.0%. The specific energy consumption and the purity of the solids were limited by the relative low P concentration (0.23 mM) in the domestic wastewater. The relative abundance of calcium phosphate in the recovered product increased from 23% to 66% and the energy consumption for recovery was decreased from 224 ± 7 kWh/kg P to just 56 ± 6 kWh/kg P when treating wastewater with higher P concentration (0.76 mM). An even lower energy demand of 21 ± 2 kWh/kg P was obtained with a platinized cathode. This highlights the promising potential of bioelectrochemical P recovery from P-rich waste streams.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8860-8867
JournalACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2019


  • amorphous calcium phosphate
  • bioelectrochemical
  • energy consumption
  • local high pH
  • phosphate removal

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