Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 28, pp 27768–27782 | Cite as

Optimization of photo-Fenton process for the treatment of prednisolone

  • Aida María Díez
  • Ana Sofia Ribeiro
  • Maria Angeles Sanromán
  • Marta PazosEmail author
New Challenges in the Application of Advanced Oxidation Processes


Prednisolone is a widely prescribed synthetic glucocorticoid and stated to be toxic to a number of non-target aquatic organisms. Its extensive consumption generates environmental concern due to its detection in wastewater samples at concentrations ranged from ng/L to μg/L that requests the application of suitable degradation processes. Regarding the actual treatment options, advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) are presented as a viable alternative. In this work, the comparison in terms of pollutant removal and energetic efficiencies, between different AOPs such as Fenton (F), photo-Fenton (UV/F), photolysis (UV), and hydrogen peroxide/photolysis (UV/H2O2), was carried out. Light diode emission (LED) was the selected source to provide the UV radiation. The UV/F process revealed the best performance, reaching high levels of both degradation and mineralization with low energy consumption. Its optimization was conducted and the operational parameters were iron and H2O2 concentrations and the working volume. Using the response surface methodology with the Box-Behnken design, the effect of independent variables and their interactions on the process response were effectively evaluated. Different responses were analyzed taking into account the prednisolone removal (TOC and drug abatements) and the energy consumptions associated. The obtained model showed an improvement of the UV/F process when treating smaller volumes and when adding high concentrations of H2O2 and Fe2+. The validation of this model was successfully carried out, having only 5% of discrepancy between the model and the experimental results. Finally, the performance of the process when having a real wastewater matrix was also tested, achieving complete mineralization and detoxification after 8 h. In addition, prednisolone degradation products were identified. Finally, the obtained low energy permitted to confirm the viability of the process.


Photolysis Fenton Advanced oxidation processes Pharmaceutical Degradation 



This research has been financially supported by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and ERDF Funds and Xunta de Galicia (Projects CTM2017-87326-R and ED431C 2017/47). The authors are grateful to the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness for the financial support of Aida María Díez Sarabia under the FPI program. The authors also want to thank to Water JPI ERA-NET Cofund WaterWorks2015 Call (Project REWATER)

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemical EngineeringUniversity of VigoVigoSpain
  2. 2.Instituto Superior de Engenharia do PortoRua Dr. António Bernardino de AlmeidaPortoPortugal

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