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Avenues to the financial viability of microbial electrolysis cells [MEC] for domestic wastewater treatment and hydrogen production

Lookup NU author(s): Dan Aiken, Professor Thomas CurtisORCiD, Dr Elizabeth Heidrich



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2018 The Authors We propose targets, based on real world data, necessary to design a financially viable microbial electrolysis cell (MEC) for the treatment of domestic wastewater. By reducing the cost of the anode and current collecting materials by 90%, a viable organic loading rate would be between 800 and 1,400g-COD/m3/d (2–3A/m2). The anode and current collector materials account for 94% of the total material costs; consequently, cost savings in any other material are moot. If the bioanode can be reused after 20 years, further, significant savings could be achieved. To develop targets we used real world data, for the first time, to evaluate the financial viability of MECs against the current predominant method of wastewater treatment: activated sludge. We modelled net present values for eight potential scenarios and the performances required for MECs to break-even.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Aiken DC, Curtis TP, Heidrich ES

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Hydrogen Energy

Year: 2019

Volume: 44

Issue: 5

Pages: 2426-2434

Print publication date: 28/01/2019

Online publication date: 05/01/2019

Acceptance date: 05/12/2018

Date deposited: 15/01/2019

ISSN (print): 0360-3199

ISSN (electronic): 1879-3487

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.ijhydene.2018.12.029


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