Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 9, pp 8715–8724 | Cite as

Degradation of organics extracted from dewatered sludge by alkaline pretreatment in microbial electrolysis cell

  • Kai Hu
  • Lan Xu
  • Wei Chen
  • Shuo-qiu Jia
  • Wei Wang
  • Feng Han
Research Article


Waste activated sludge in China are mostly subjected to dewatering process before final disposal without stabilization. This study investigated the feasibility of organics degradation and H2 production from non-stabilized dewatered sludge (DS) by microbial electrolysis cells (MECs). Alkaline pretreatment was used to disintegrate sludge matrix and solubilize organic matters in DS. Then, the treatment performance of DS supernatant in a single-chamber MEC at various applied voltages was investigated. The COD (chemical oxygen demand) removal rate increased with increasing voltage, which ranged from 26.35 to 44.92% at 0.5–0.9 V. The average coulombic efficiency was 75.6%, while the cathodic hydrogen recovery was not satisfied (15.56–20.05%) with H2 production rates of 0.027–0.038 m3 H2/(m3 day). The reasons could be ascribed to the complexity of the substrate, H2 loss, and the confinement of configuration in scale-up. The organic matter degradation was influenced by the composition of DS. The carbohydrates could be readily used; meanwhile, the major component of the DS supernatant, i.e. proteins, was difficult to be utilized, which resulted from the low biodegradability of the transphilic fractions during the MEC operation.


Dewatered sludge Microbial electrolysis cell Alkaline pretreatment Hydrolysis Biogas production Degradation 



The authors gratefully acknowledge fundings from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 51408194), Ministry of Education Key Laboratory of Integrated Regulation and Resource Development on Shallow Lakes, Hohai University (Grant No. 2015002), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (Grant No. 2017B16614), National Science and Technology Major Project (Grant No. 2016YFC0400800-04), Scientific and Technological Project of Henan Province (Grant No. 162102310057), and the Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions(PAPD).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kai Hu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lan Xu
    • 2
  • Wei Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shuo-qiu Jia
    • 2
  • Wei Wang
    • 3
  • Feng Han
    • 3
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Integrated Regulation and Resource Development on Shallow Lakes, Ministry of EducationHohai UniversityNanjingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.College of EnvironmentHohai UniversityNanjingPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Hydrology and Water Resources Bureau of Henan ProvinceZhengzhouPeople’s Republic of China

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