Extracellular electron transfer modes and rate-limiting steps in denitrifying biocathodes

  • Ke Wang
  • Shaohui ZhangEmail author
Research Article


Denitrifying bioelectrochemical system provided an alternative technology for nitrogen removal, even power recovery from wastewater, and its nitrogen removal performance and intermediate accumulation were affected by the extracellular electron transfer modes and rate-limiting steps in denitrifying biocathodes. In the current study, the extracellular electron transfer modes and rate-limiting steps for nitrate reduction and nitrite reduction of denitrifying biocathode were investigated through cyclic voltammetry. When the cathode potential swept from 0.003 to − 0.897 V (vs. Ag/AgCl), denitrifiers were indispensable for electrochemical denitrification. Three peak potentials were found in the cyclic voltammogram of denitrifying biocathode, where E1 (− 0.471 to − 0.465 V) and E2 (− 0.412 to − 0.428 V) represented respectively nitrate reduction and nitrite oxidation while E3 (− 0.822 to − 0.826 V) represented nitrite reduction. Nitrate reduction involved the direct electron transfer mode while nitrite reduction involved the mediated electron transfer mode. Intracellular catalytic reaction was the rate-limiting step for nitrate reduction, independent on the electrochemical activity of denitrifying biocathode and the nitrate supply. The nitrate supply posed an effect on the rate-limiting step for nitrite reduction. The mediator transfer was the rate-limiting step for nitrite reduction in the absence of nitrate. But both mediator transfer and intracellular catalytic reaction became the rate-limiting steps for nitrite reduction in the presence of sufficient nitrate.


Electron transfer mode Rate-limiting step Denitrifying biocathode Reduction step Bioelectrochemical system 


Funding information

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 21577108).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Civil Engineering and ArchitectureWuhan University of TechnologyWuhanChina

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