Removal of organic compounds from cooling tower blowdown by electrochemical oxidation: Role of electrodes and operational parameters

Pradip Saha*, Harry Bruning, Thomas V. Wagner, Huub H.M. Rijnaarts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


The reuse of cooling tower blowdown (CTBD) in the cooling tower itself requires CTBD deionization and a pre-treatment before deionization to remove organic compounds (OCs) that induce membrane fouling. This study assesses the potential of electrochemical oxidation (EO) with a boron-doped diamond (BDD) and a Ti/RuO2 mixed-metal oxide (MMO) anode for CTBD pre-treatment. Also, the influence of the applied current density (j), initial pH, hydrodynamic conditions, and supporting electrolyte on the process performance was evaluated. Results show that COD and TOC removal were 85 and 51%, respectively, with the BDD-anode; however, they were 50 and 12% with MMO-anode at a j-value of 8.7 mA cm−2 and neutral pH. An increased j-value increased the COD and TOC removal; however, different pHs, hydrodynamic conditions, and the addition of supporting electrolytes had a minor impact on the removal with both anodes. Liquid chromatography-organic carbon detection analysis showed that the OC in CTBD mainly consisted of humic substances (HS). EO with the BDD-anode resulted in 35% HS mineralization, while the rest of the HS were partially oxidized into low molecular weight compounds and building blocks. However, HS mineralization was limited with the MMO-anode. The mineralization and oxidation were accompanied by the formation of organic and inorganic chlorinated species. These species increased the toxicity to Vibrio fischeri 20-fold compared to the initially low-toxic CTBD. Thus, EO with a BDD-anode is a promising pre-treatment technology for the removal of OCs before CTBD deionization, but measures to minimize the chlorinated species formation are required before its application.

Original languageEnglish
Article number127491
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • Applied current density
  • Boron-doped diamond anode
  • Chlorinated by-products
  • Humic substances
  • Mixed-metal oxide anode


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