Black liquor is a complex waste stream generated from the fast-expanding biorefinery industry, and the high management cost has been known as a major development barrier. In this work, we demonstrated a rationally designed 4-chamber microbial electrolysis process that was capable of recovering the value-added lignin, NaOH, and H2 products while removing waste organics from the Deacetylation and Mechanical Refining (DMR) black liquor, which could potentially reduce the disposal cost by up to 40%. The lab-scale MEC achieved 52% organic removal from a highly concentrated feedstock (28,960 ± 212 mg/L COD) and recovered 83.2 mM NaOH under a small voltage application (1.2 V). Lignin recovery was observed to be as high as 13.98 ± 0.28 g/L, and 0.35 L/L/day H2 was produced with a faradaic efficiency of 93.5%. This work provided a good example on how complex liquid waste stream can be valorized via multi-functional microbial electrochemical technology, and how the traditionally unfavored pH gradient in an electrochemical reactor can be manipulated for lignin precipitation and alkaline recovery at the same time. The versatility and good performance in concurrent contaminants removal, lignin precipitation, H2 production and NaOH recovery demonstrate a good potential for microbial electrolysis in black liquor treatment.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Waste Management and Disposal
- Economics and Econometrics
- Black liquor
- H production
- Microbial electrolysis cell
- Recalcitrant wastewater