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Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering

Front. Environ. Sci. Eng.    2020, Vol. 14 Issue (5) : 78
Locally enhanced electric field treatment (LEEFT) for water disinfection
Jianfeng Zhou, Ting Wang, Cecilia Yu, Xing Xie()
School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA
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• Nanowire-assisted LEEFT is applied for water disinfection with low voltages.

• LEEFT inactivates bacteria by disrupting cell membrane through electroporation.

• Multiple electrodes and device configurations have been developed for LEEFT.

• The LEEFT is low-cost, highly efficient, and produces no DBPs.

• The LEEFT can potentially be applicable for water disinfection at all scales.

Water disinfection is a critical step in water and wastewater treatment. The most widely used chlorination suffers from the formation of carcinogenic disinfection by-products (DBPs) while alternative methods (e.g., UV, O3, and membrane filtration) are limited by microbial regrowth, no residual disinfectant, and high operation cost. Here, a nanowire-enabled disinfection method, locally enhanced electric field treatment (LEEFT), is introduced with advantages of no chemical addition, no DBP formation, low energy consumption, and efficient microbial inactivation. Attributed to the lightning rod effect, the electric field near the tip area of the nanowires on the electrode is significantly enhanced to inactivate microbes, even though a small external voltage (usually<5 V) is applied. In this review, after emphasizing the significance of water disinfection, the theory of the LEEFT is explained. Subsequently, the recent development of the LEEFT technology on electrode materials and device configurations are summarized. The disinfection performance is analyzed, with respect to the operating parameters, universality against different microorganisms, electrode durability, and energy consumption. The studies on the inactivation mechanisms during the LEEFT are also reviewed. Lastly, the challenges and future research of LEEFT disinfection are discussed.

Keywords Water treatment      Nanotechnology      Pathogen inactivation      Electroporation      Nanowire      Chemical-free     
This article is part of themed collection: Accounts of Aquatic Chemistry and Technology Research (Responsible Editors: Jinyong Liu, Haoran Wei & Yin Wang)
Corresponding Author(s): Xing Xie   
Issue Date: 14 May 2020
 Cite this article:   
Jianfeng Zhou,Ting Wang,Cecilia Yu, et al. Locally enhanced electric field treatment (LEEFT) for water disinfection[J]. Front. Environ. Sci. Eng., 2020, 14(5): 78.
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Jianfeng Zhou
Ting Wang
Cecilia Yu
Xing Xie
Fig.1  Theory of the locally enhanced electric field treatment (LEEFT) for microbial inactivation. (a) Electroporation on the cell membrane under a strong external electric field, (b) Schematic of the pulsed electric field treatment, (c) Schematic of the LEEFT. The applied voltage is reduced from several kV to serval V, (d) Electric field distribution near the surface of CuONW (diameter, 100 nm; length, 15 μm) in water showing the enhancement of the electric field strength (Liu et al., 2014).
Fig.2  Electrode materials for LEEFT disinfection. (a–c) AgNW modified CNT composite (Liu et al., 2013), (d–f) CuONW-Cu (Huo et al., 2016), (g–i) Cu3PNW-Cu (Huo et al., 2018), (j–l) PDA-CuONW-Cu (Huo et al., 2019b), (m–o) PDA-Cu3PNW-Cu (Huo et al., 2019a). The first line (a, d, g, j, & m) shows the schematic, second line (b, e, h, k, & n) the macrostructures, and third line (c, f, i, l, & o) the nanowires of the electrodes.
Fig.3  LEEFT devices. (a) The image of a flow-through LEEFT device with two porous electrodes, (b, c) Schematics show the porous electrodes ((b) for foam and (c) for mesh) modified with nanowires (Liu et al., 2013, Huo et al., 2018), (d, e) The image and schematic of a coaxial-electrode LEEFT device, respectively (Zhou et al., 2019a, Zhou et al., 2019b), (f) Electric field simulation on the cross-section of the coaxial-electrode device showing the non-uniform distribution of the electric field with a two-level strength enhancement (Zhou et al., 2019b).
Fig.4  Disinfection performance of the LEEFT. (a) Quantitative measurement of model bacteria (E. coli and Bacillus subtilis as gram negative and positive bacteria examples, respectively) before and after the LEEFT by a standard microbial plating technique (Ding et al., 2019), (b) E. coli inactivation efficiency with Cu3PNW–Cu and Cu(OH)2–Cu electrodes with different voltages (1, 2, 3, and 5 V) and different fluxes (from 1 to 16 m3/(h·m2)). Cu(OH)2-Cu is an intermediate product of the Cu3P-Cu electrode (Huo et al., 2018), (c)Disinfection efficiency of E. hormaechei, E. durans, B. subtilis, and virus MS2 by PDA-Cu3PNW-Cu electrodes with AC (peak voltage of 1 V; frequency of 106 Hz) (Huo et al., 2019a), (d) Long-term bacterial disinfection efficiency of the PDA-Cu3PNW-Cu electrodes. The numbers after the electrodes (16 & 24) stand for the PDA coating time (Huo et al., 2019a).
Fig.5  Disinfection mechanisms of the LEEFT. (a) Inactivation efficiency of E. coliusing CuONW-Cu and CuxONP-Cu showing enhanced performance by 1D nanowire structure (Liu et al., 2014), (b) Inactivation efficiency of E. coli using a PDA-coated copper wire as the center electrode under 1 V applied voltage (Zhou et al., 2019a), (c, d) Bright-field and fluorescence microscopy images of E. coli samples before (c) and after (d) LEEFT (Cu3P-Cu electrodes) with a fixed voltage (1 V) and a fixed flux (2 m3/(h·m2)) (Huo et al., 2018), (e) High-magnification SEM showing more than one pore formed on E. coli surface after LEEFT (AgNW-CNT composite, 20 V) (Liu et al., 2013), (f) Cu release of the Cu3PNW-Cu and PDA-Cu3PNW-Cu electrodes during the long-term LEEFT (15 days; AC: peak voltage of 1 V, and frequency of 106 Hz; flux: 4 m3/(h·m2)). ND (not detectable) indicates that the Cu concentration in the effluent is lower than the detection limit (0.1 mg/L) (Huo et al., 2019a), (g) Inactivation efficiency for E. coli with an AC voltage of 1 V and different frequencies (from 1 to 3.5×108 Hz) (Huo et al., 2018), (h) When the E. coli sample passed through the PDA-CuONW electrodes with a fixed flux (1.8 m3/(h·m2)) and without applied voltage, no bacteria were inactivated (Huo et al., 2019b).
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