Aug 2022, Volume 16 Issue 4

  • Select all
    Yuqing Yan, Xin Wang

    • Energy is needed to accelerate the biological wastewater treatment.

    • Electrical energy input in traditional technology is indirect and inefficient.

    • Direct injection of electricity can be a game changer to maximize energy efficiency.

    • Microbial electrochemical unit for decentralized wastewater treatment is proposed.

    It has been more than one century since the activated sludge process was invented. Despite its proven stability and reliability, the energy (especially the electrical energy) use in wastewater treatment should evolve to meet the increasingly urgent demand of energy efficiency. This paper discusses how the energy utilized in conventional biological wastewater treatment can be altered by switching the indirect energy input to a direct electricity injection, which is achieved by the electrode integration providing extra thermodynamic driving force to biodegradation. By using electrodes instead of oxygen as terminal electron acceptors, the electrical energy can be utilized more efficiently, and the key of direct use of electrical energy in biodegradation is the development of highly active electroactive biofilm and the increase of electron transfer between microbes and the electrode. Furthermore, the synergy of different microbial electrochemical units has additional benefit in energy and resource recovery, making wastewater treatment more sustainable.

    Hua Long, Yang Liao, Changhao Cui, Meijia Liu, Zeiwei Liu, Li Li, Wenzheng Hu, Dahai Yan

    • Municipal solid waste (MSW) was fermented, screened, gasified, then co-processed.

    • Co-processing MSW in cement kilns could cause excessive pollutant emissions.

    • Bypass flue gas can be disposed of through the main flue system.

    • Popular MSW co-processing methods do not affect cement quality.

    Cement kiln co-processing techniques have been developed in the past 20 years in China, and more than 60 factories now use fermentation, screening, and gasification pre-treatment techniques to co-process municipal solid waste (MSW). There three complete MSW pre-treatment techniques, co-processing procedures, and environmental risk assessments have been described in few publications. In this study, we assessed the effectiveness of each technique. The results suggested that the pollutant content released by each pre-treatment technology was lower than the emission standard. To reveal the mechanisms of pollutant migration and enrichment, the substances in the kiln and kiln products are investigated. The input of co-processing materials (Co-M) produced by fermentation caused formation of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofuran (PCDD/Fs) in the bypass flue gas (By-gas) in excess of the regulatory standard. The Co-M input produced by the screening and gasifier technologies caused the total organic carbon (TOC) concentration to exceed the standard. In addition, the NOx, TOC, and PCDD/Fs in the By-gas exceeded the regulatory standard. Raw meal was the primary chlorine and heavy metals input stream, and clinker (CK) and cement kiln dust (CKD) accounted for>90% of the total chlorine output stream. Flue gas and CKD were the primary volatile heavy metal (Hg) output streams. Greater than 70% of the semi-volatile heavy metals (Cd, Pb, Tl and Se) distributed in hot raw meal and bypass cement kiln dust. The low-volatility heavy metals were concentrated in the CK. These results indicated that co-processing techniques used in China still require improvement.

    Nan Yang, Linqiong Wang, Li Lin, Yi Li, Wenlong Zhang, Lihua Niu, Huanjun Zhang, Longfei Wang

    • Structure of multi-trophic microbial groups were analyzed using DNA metabarcoding.

    • Discontinuity and trophic interactions were observed along the dam-fragmented river.

    • C, N and P cycles are driven by top-down and bottom-up forces of microbial food web.

    • Pelagic-benthic coupling may intensify nutrient accumulation in the river system.

    Cascade dams disrupt the river continuum, altering hydrology, biodiversity and nutrient flux. Describing the diversity of multi-trophic microbiota and assessing microbial contributions to the ecosystem processes are prerequisites for the restoration of these aquatic systems. This study investigated the microbial food web structure along a cascade-dammed river, paying special attention to the multi-trophic relationships and the potential role of pelagic-benthic coupling in nutrient cycles. Our results revealed the discontinuity in bacterial and eukaryotic community composition, functional group proportion, as well as α-diversity due to fragmentation by damming. The high microbial dissimilarity along the river, with the total multi-trophic β-diversity was 0.84, was almost completely caused by species replacement. Synchronization among trophic levels suggests potential interactions of the pelagic and the benthic groups, of which the β-diversities were primarily influenced by geographic and environmental factors, respectively. Dam-induced environmental variations, especially hydrological and nutrient variables, potentially influence the microbial food web via both top-down and bottom-up forces. We proposed that the cycles of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus are influenced by multi-trophic groups through autotrophic and heterotrophic processes, predator–prey relationships, as well as the release of nutrients mainly by microfauna. Our results advance the notion that pelagic-benthic trophic coupling may intensify the accumulation of organic carbon, ammonium and inorganic phosphorus, thereby changing the biogeochemical patterns along river systems. As a consequence, researchers should pay more attention to the multi-trophic studies when assessing the environmental impacts, and to provide the necessary guidance for the ecological conservation and restoration of the dam-regulated systems.

    Tingwei Gao, Kang Xiao, Jiao Zhang, Wenchao Xue, Chunhai Wei, Xiaoping Zhang, Shuai Liang, Xiaomao Wang, Xia Huang

    • Retrofitting from CAS to MBR increased effluent quality and environmental benefits.

    • Retrofitting from CAS to MBR increased energy consumption but not operating cost.

    • Retrofitting from CAS to MBR increased the net profit and cost efficiency.

    • The advantage of MBR is related to the adopted effluent standard.

    • The techno-economy of MBR improves with stricter effluent standards.

    While a growing number of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are being retrofitted from the conventional activated sludge (CAS) process to the membrane bioreactor (MBR) process, the debate on the techno-economy of MBR vs. CAS has continued and calls for a thorough assessment based on techno-economic valuation. In this study, we analyzed the operating data of 20 large-scale WWTPs (capacity≥10000 m3/d) and compared their techno-economy before and after the retrofitting from CAS to MBR. Through cost-benefit analysis, we evaluated the net profit by subtracting the operating cost from the environmental benefit (estimated by the shadow price of pollutant removal and water reclamation). After the retrofitting, the removal rate of pollutants increased (e.g., from 89.0% to 93.3% on average for NH3-N), the average energy consumption increased from 0.40 to 0.57 kWh/m3, but the operating cost did not increase significantly. The average marginal environmental benefit increased remarkably (from 0.47 to 0.66 CNY/g for NH3-N removal), leading to an increase in the average net profit from 19.4 to 24.4 CNY/m3. We further scored the technical efficiencies via data envelopment analysis based on non-radial directional distance functions. After the retrofitting, the relative cost efficiency increased from 0.70 to 0.73 (the theoretical maximum is 1), while the relative energy efficiency did not change significantly. The techno-economy is closely related to the effluent standard adopted, particularly when truncating the extra benefit of pollutant removal beyond the standard in economic modeling. The modeling results suggested that MBR is more profitable than CAS given stricter effluent standards.

    Xuemei Hu, Shijie You, Fang Li, Yanbiao Liu

    • The synthesis and physicochemical properties of various CNMs are reviewed.

    • Sb removal using carbon-based nano-adsorbents and membranes are summarized.

    • Details on adsorption behavior and mechanisms of Sb uptake by CNMs are discussed.

    • Challenges and future prospects for rational design of advanced CNMs are provided.

    Recently, special attention has been deserved to environmental risks of antimony (Sb) element that is of highly physiologic toxicity to human. Conventional coagulation and ion exchange methods for Sb removal are faced with challenges of low efficiency, high cost and secondary pollution. Adsorption based on carbon nanomaterials (CNMs; e.g., carbon nanotubes, graphene, graphene oxide, reduced graphene oxide and their derivatives) may provide effective alternative because the CNMs have high surface area, rich surface chemistry and high stability. In particular, good conductivity makes it possible to create linkage between adsorption and electrochemistry, thereby the synergistic interaction will be expected for enhanced Sb removal. This review article summarizes the state of art on Sb removal using CNMs with the form of nano-adsorbents and/or filtration membranes. In details, procedures of synthesis and functionalization of different forms of CNMs were reviewed. Next, adsorption behavior and the underlying mechanisms toward Sb removal using various CNMs were presented as resulting from a retrospective analysis of literatures. Last, we prospect the needs for mass production and regeneration of CNMs adsorbents using more affordable precursors and objective assessment of environmental impacts in future studies.

    Jun Li, Aimin Li, Yan Li, Minhui Cai, Gan Luo, Yaping Wu, Yechao Tian, Liqun Xing, Quanxing Zhang

    • Over 70% reduction of sulfate was achieved for sulfate less than 12000 mg/L.

    • The decrease of genes encoding (EC: induced the accumulation of VFAs.

    • The sulfate reduction genes were primary carried by genus Desulfovibrio.

    • Sulfate favored assimilatory, but inhibited dissimilatory sulfate reduction process.

    For comprehensive insights into the influences of sulfate on performance, microbial community and metabolic pathways in the acidification phase of a two-phase anaerobic system, a laboratory-scale acidogenic bioreactor was continuously operated to treat wastewater with elevated sulfate concentrations from 2000 to 14000 mg/L. The results showed that the acidogenic bioreactor could achieve sulfate reduction efficiency of greater than 70% for influent sulfate content less than 12000 mg/L. Increased sulfate induced the accumulation of volatile fatty acids (VFAs), especially propionate and butyrate, which was the primary negative effects to system performance under the high-sulfate environment. High-throughput sequencing coupled with PICRUSt2 uncovered that the accumulation of VFAs was triggered by the decreasing of genes encoding short-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase (EC:, regulating the transformation of propanoyl-CoA to propenoyl-CoA and butanoyl-CoA to crotonyl-CoA of propionate and butyrate oxidation pathways, which made these two process hardly proceed. Besides, genes encoding (EC: were mainly carried by order Clostridiales. Desulfovibrio was the most abundant sulfate-reducing bacteria and identified as the primary host of dissimilatory sulfate reduction functional genes. Functional analysis indicated the dissimilatory sulfate reduction process predominated under a low sulfate environment, but was not favored under the circumstance of high-sulfate. With the increase of sulfate, the assimilatory sulfate reduction process finally overwhelmed dissimilatory as the dominant sulfate reduction pathway in acidogenic bioreactor.

    Wenjuan Zhang, Bo Han, Ramato Ashu Tufa, Chuyang Tang, Xunuo Liu, Ge Zhang, Jing Chang, Rui Zhang, Rong Mu, Caihong Liu, Dan Song, Junjing Li, Jun Ma, Yufeng Zhang

    • RED performance and stack resistance were studied by EIS and LSV.

    • Interface resistance were discriminated from Ohmic resistance by EIS.

    • Impacts of spacer shadow effect and concentration polarization were analyzed.

    • Ionic short current reduced the power density for more cell pairs.

    • The results enabled to predict RED performance with different configurations.

    Reverse electrodialysis (RED) is an emerging membrane-based technology for the production of renewable energy from mixing waters with different salinities. Herein, the impact of the stack configuration on the Ohmic and non-Ohmic resistances as well as the performance of RED were systematically studied by using in situ electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS). Three different parameters (membrane type, number of cell pairs and spacer design) were controlled. The Ohmic and non-Ohmic resistances were evaluated for RED stacks equipped with two types of commercial membranes (Type I and Type II) supplied by Fujifilm Manufacturing Europe B.V: Type I Fuji membranes displayed higher Ohmic and non-Ohmic resistances than Type II membranes, which was mainly attributed to the difference in fixed charge density. The output power of the stack was observed to decrease with the increasing number of cell pairs mainly due to the increase in ionic shortcut currents. With the reduction in spacer thickness from 750 to 200 µm, the permselectivity of membranes in the stack decreased from 0.86 to 0.79 whereas the energy efficiency losses increased from 31% to 49%. Overall, the output of the present study provides a basis for understanding the impact of stack design on internal losses during the scaling-up of RED.

    Xiaoya Liu, Yu Hong, Yu Liu

    • Optimal growth of Chlorella in inland saline-alkaline water was achieved by blue LED.

    • Lipids of Chlorella sp. HQ were mainly composed of C16:0 and C18:2 under various LEDs.

    • The BiodieselAnalyzer© software was used to evaluate the Chlorella biodiesel quality.

    Chlorella sp. HQ was a high-quality feedstock for biodiesel production.

    Inland saline-alkaline water can be used for the low-cost cultivation of microalgae, but whether algal biomass under various light sources has the potential to produce biodiesel remains to be developed. Herein, the influence of different light-emitting diode (LEDs) light colors (blue, red, white, mixed blue-red, and mixed blue-white LED) on the growth performance, lipid accumulation, and fatty acid composition of Chlorella sp. HQ cultivated in inland saline-alkaline water was investigated. The highest algal density was obtained under blue LEDs at the end of cultivation, reaching 1.93±0.03 × 107 cells/mL. White LEDs can improve biomass yield, total lipid yield, and triacylglycerol yield per algal cell. The main fatty acid components of Chlorella from inland saline-alkaline water were palmitic acid and linoleic acid. The BiodieselAnalyzer© software was used to predict algal biodiesel quality by estimating different quality parameters. The cetane number, kinematic viscosity, and density of Chlorella biodiesel were 51.714–67.69, 3.583–3.845 mm2/s, and 0.834–0.863 g/cm3, respectively. This further proved that the Chlorella biomass obtained from inland saline-alkaline water has the potential to be used as a high-quality biodiesel feedstock.

    Hengrui Tao, Jia Xing, Gaofeng Pan, Jonathan Pleim, Limei Ran, Shuxiao Wang, Xing Chang, Guojing Li, Fei Chen, Junhua Li

    • The Large scale Urban Consumption of energY model was updated and coupled with WRF.

    • Anthropogenic heat emissions altered the precipitation and its spatial distribution.

    • A reasonable AHE scheme could improve the performance of simulated PM2.5.

    • AHE aggravated the O3 pollution in urban areas.

    Anthropogenic heat emissions (AHE) play an important role in modulating the atmospheric thermodynamic and kinetic properties within the urban planetary boundary layer, particularly in densely populated megacities like Beijing. In this study, we estimate the AHE by using a Large-scale Urban Consumption of energY (LUCY) model and further couple LUCY with a high-resolution regional chemical transport model to evaluate the impact of AHE on atmospheric environment in Beijing. In areas with high AHE, the 2-m temperature (T2) increased to varying degrees and showed distinct diurnal and seasonal variations with maxima in night and winter. The increase in 10-m wind speed (WS10) and planetary boundary layer height (PBLH) exhibited slight diurnal variations but showed significant seasonal variations. Further, the systematic continuous precipitation increased by 2.1 mm due to the increase in PBLH and water vapor in upper air. In contrast, the precipitation in local thermal convective showers increased little because of the limited water vapor. Meanwhile, the PM2.5 reduced in areas with high AHE because of the increase in WS10 and PBLH and continued to reduce as the pollution levels increased. In contrast, in areas where prevailing wind direction was opposite to that of thermal circulation caused by AHE, the WS10 reduced, leading to increased PM2.5. The changes of PM2.5 illustrated that a reasonable AHE scheme might be an effective means to improve the performance of PM2.5 simulation. Besides, high AHE aggravated the O3 pollution in urban areas due to the reduction in NOx.

    Yun He, Jianyong Liu, Chengyuan Shen, Xuewen Yi, Xiaowei Li, Xin Huang, Kokyo Oh, Guoji Ding

    • An innovative method of culturing bdelloid rotifer fed on flour was proposed.

    • Rotifer fed on flour grew faster than that fed on bacteria or Chlorella vulgaris.

    • The optimum mass culture conditions for rotifer fed on flour were investigated.

    • The cultured rotifer could improve sludge settleability in the SBR.

    This study aims to establish a simple and efficient method for the mass culture of bdelloid rotifers, which is the basis for the application of bdelloid rotifers as biological manipulators to improve wastewater biological treatment performance. A common bdelloid rotifer, Habrotrocha sp., in a wastewater biological treatment system was selected as the culture target. Rotifers fed on flour could reproduce faster than those fed traditional food such as Chlorella vulgaris or mixed bacteria. As a rotifer food, flour has the advantages of simple preparation, effortless preservation, and low cost compared to live Chlorella vulgaris or mixed bacteria, so it is more suitable for the mass culture of rotifers. The optimal rotifer culture conditions using flour as food were also studied. According to the experimental results, the recommended rotifer culture conditions are a flour particle size of 1 μm, a flour concentration of 6 × 106 cell/mL, a temperature of 28℃, a pH level of 6.5 and salinity of 100–500 mg/L. In addition, the sludge volume index in the sequencing batch reactor (SBR) with the addition of cultured rotifers was 59.9 mL/g at the end of operation and decreased by 18.2% compared to SBR without rotifer, which indicates that the cultured rotifers still retained the function of helping to improve sludge settling. This function may be related to the rotifer’s role in inhibiting bacteria from producing loosely bound extracellular polymeric substances in the SBR.

    Qinjun Liang, Yu Gao, Zhigang Li, Jiayi Cai, Na Chu, Wen Hao, Yong Jiang, Raymond Jianxiong Zeng

    • MES was constructed for simultaneous ammonia removal and acetate production.

    • Energy consumption was different for total nitrogen and ammonia nitrogen removal.

    • Energy consumption for acetate production was about 0.04 kWh/g.

    • Nitrate accumulation explained the difference of energy consumption.

    • Transport of ammonia and acetate across the membrane deteriorated the performance.

    Microbial electrosynthesis (MES) is an emerging technology for producing chemicals, and coupling MES to anodic waste oxidation can simultaneously increase the competitiveness and allow additional functions to be explored. In this study, MES was used for the simultaneous removal of ammonia from synthetic urine and production of acetate from CO2. Using graphite anode, 83.2%±5.3% ammonia removal and 28.4%±9.9% total nitrogen removal was achieved, with an energy consumption of 1.32 kWh/g N for total nitrogen removal, 0.45 kWh/g N for ammonia nitrogen removal, and 0.044 kWh/g for acetate production. Using boron-doped diamond (BDD) anode, 70.9%±12.1% ammonia removal and 51.5%±11.8% total nitrogen removal was obtained, with an energy consumption of 0.84 kWh/g N for total nitrogen removal, 0.61 kWh/g N for ammonia nitrogen removal, and 0.043 kWh/g for acetate production. A difference in nitrate accumulation explained the difference of total nitrogen removal efficiencies. Transport of ammonia and acetate across the membrane deteriorated the performance of MES. These results are important for the development of novel electricity-driven technologies for chemical production and pollution removal.

    Liang Cui, Ji Li, Xiangyun Gao, Biao Tian, Jiawen Zhang, Xiaonan Wang, Zhengtao Liu

    • The concentrations of 13 heavy metals in Taihu Lake were analyzed.

    • Aquatic vegetables intake was first included in deriving human health AWQC.

    • The human health AWQC for 13 heavy metals in Taihu Lake were derived.

    • Human health risk assessment for 13 heavy metals were conducted in Taihu Lake.

    Heavy metals are widely concerning because of their toxicity, persistence, non-degradation and bioaccumulation ability. Human health ambient water quality criteria (AWQC) are specific levels of chemicals that can occur in water without harming human health. At present, most countries do not consider the effects of aquatic vegetables in deriving human health AWQC. Therefore, the intake of aquatic vegetables (Brasenia schreberi) was added to the derivation of human health AWQC and a health risk assessment for 13 heavy metals in Taihu Lake. The human health AWQC (consumption of water, fish and aquatic vegetables) values of 13 heavy metals ranged from 0.04 (Cd) to 710.87 μg/L (Sn), and the intake of B. schreberi had a very significant effect on the human health AWQC for Cu, with a more than 62-fold difference. The hazard quotients of As (2.8), Cd (1.6), Cr (1.4) and Cu (4.86) were higher than the safe level (HQ= 1), indicating that As, Cd, Cr and Cu in Taihu Lake posed a significant health risk. Sensitivity analysis showed that the contribution rate of B. schreberi intake to the human health risk from Cu was 91.6%, and all results indicated that the risk of Cu in B. schreberi to human health should be of particular concern. This study adds the consideration of aquatic vegetable consumption to the traditional method of human health AWQC derivation and risk assessments for the first time, and this approach can promote the development of risk assessments and water quality criteria.

    Ruobin Dai, Hongyi Han, Yuting Zhu, Xi Wang, Zhiwei Wang

    • PA layer properties tune the primary nanochannels in MIL-101(Cr) TFN NF membranes.

    • The dense PA layer induced transition of primary nanochannels of TFN NF membranes.

    • Nanochannels around MOF contributed to the improved flux with a loose PA structure.

    • Nanochannels in MOFs dominated the separation performance with a dense PA structure.

    Metal organic framework (MOF) incorporated thin-film nanocomposite (TFN) membranes have the potential to enhance the removal of endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs). In MOF-TFN membranes, water transport nanochannels include (i) pores of polyamide layer, (ii) pores in MOFs and (iii) channels around MOFs (polyamide-MOF interface). However, information on how to tune the nanochannels to enhance EDCs rejection is scarce, impeding the refinement of TFN membranes toward efficient removal of EDCs. In this study, by changing the polyamide properties, the water transport nanochannels could be confined primarily in pores of MOFs when the polyamide layer became dense. Interestingly, the improved rejection of EDCs was dependent on the water transport channels of the TFN membrane. At low monomer concentration (i.e., loose polyamide structure), the hydrophilic nanochannels of MIL-101(Cr) in the polyamide layer could not dominate the membrane separation performance, and hence the extent of improvement in EDCs rejection was relatively low. In contrast, at high monomer concentration (i.e., dense polyamide structure), the hydrophilic nanochannels of MIL-101(Cr) were responsible for the selective removal of hydrophobic EDCs, demonstrating that the manipulation of water transport nanochannels in the TFN membrane could successfully overcome the permeability and EDCs rejection trade-off. Our results highlight the potential of tuning primary selective nanochannels of MOF-TFN membranes for the efficient removal of EDCs.