AquaCell - An innovative technology platform for the enhanced treatment of industrial wastewaters achieving cost reductions, electricity generation and enabling water reuse for non-potable applications

AquaCell - An innovative technology platform for the enhanced treatment of industrial wastewaters achieving cost reductions, electricity generation and enabling water reuse for non-potable applications

Major water using and discharging industries are of significant European economic importance, generating >€1500 billion turnover and employing >7.5 million people in 220,000 companies (90% SMEs). With continued European growth in demand for water, finite reservoirs of readily-treatable water, rising energy costs and increased environmental legislation, EU industry is experiencing significant competitive threats with regard to cost-efficient supply and treatment of water.

Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) utilise electrochemically-active microbes to convert the inherent energy of organic chemical bonds to electrical energy. MFCs encompass unique features that offer advantages for the treatment of wastewater, including: efficient electricity generation; minimal sludge formation; operation at low temperature; and modular cell design, enabling operation at small scale and customisation to specific end-user requirements.

A core group of SMEs have identified a unique opportunity to advance MFC technology for industrial wastewater treatment, thereby generating sustainable and competitive business growth. Key innovations include MFC integration with photocatalytic advanced oxidation and a membraneless MFC air cathode design; and a scalable cost-efficient MFC and architecture design incorporating innovative process monitoring & control strategies. System features and benefits include:

- Capital cost equivalence with existing aerobic treatment solutions
- Significant operational cost savings, realised through:
- Recovery of organic content as electrical energy & achieving system sustainability (self-powering);
- Enhanced treatment efficiency enabling water reuse for on-site non-potable applications;
- Significant cost reductions for sludge disposal and treated wastewater discharge to sewer
- Flexible design and operation customised to specific end-user (sector) requirements and enabling treatment of wastewaters of varying composition and containing hazardous micropollutants

The project will result in a pilot-scale MFC system demonstrated for a target industrial wastewater. AquaCell will generate ~€40 million business growth for its SMEs within a 3-year period creating 94 jobs; and has the potential to benefit >29,700 major water using SMEs within the wider European manufacturing sector.

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