Microbial electrolysis treatment of post-hydrothermal liquefaction wastewater with hydrogen generation

Ruixia Shen, Yong Jiang, Zheng Ge, Jianwen Lu, Yuanhui Zhang, Zhidan Liu, Zhiyong Jason Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) directly converts wet organic waste into biocrude oil, but it also generates post-HTL wastewater (PHWW) with concentrated nutrients that require further treatment before discharge or reuse. While traditional technologies showed limited success, this study demonstrates that microbial electrolysis cell (MEC) can be an effective approach to treat the swine manure PHWW and recover H2 for onsite HTL biocrude upgrading. The onsite H2 production and utilization makes MEC an ideal wastewater treatment process for HTL operations. Using actual swine manure PHWW, the MEC reactors showed excellent removals of organics (90–98%) and nitrogen (57–93%) under various organic loadings, applied voltages, and flow rates. Increasing organic loadings and applied voltages showed positive influences on system performance, while changes of flow rates showed limited impacts. The highest H2 production rate was 168.01 ± 7.01 mL/L/d with a H2 yield of 5.14 ± 0.22 mmol/kg COD (3000 mg COD/L, 1.0 V), and the highest cathodic H2 recovery and energy efficiency were 74.24 ± 0.11% and 120.56 ± 17.45%, respectively. System configuration and operation can be further optimized to improve system performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)509-515
Number of pages7
JournalApplied Energy
StatePublished - Feb 15 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • General Energy
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Building and Construction
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


  • Hydrogen production
  • Hydrothermal liquefaction
  • Microbial electrolysis cell
  • Organic wet waste
  • Wastewater treatment


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