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Here’s a novel idea – generate electricity via the process that removes pollutants from wastewater.

Smoggy air pollution rising from a smokestack at a brick factory

The world is facing environmental damage and energy scarcity problems. This has led to a growing demand for sustainable and renewable energy technology development. One way to generate electricity is by using wastewater.

When wastewater is treated to remove pollutants, it generates more than three times the amount of energy required to treat it. Researchers use photocatalytic fuel cells (PFC) to capture energy from wastewater. This system uses organic pollutants in wastewater as carbon and energy sources for power generation. Under light irradiation, pollutants are oxidized and degraded by photogenerated holes. Electrons generated at the photoanode can pass through the external circuit to the cathode for electricity production.

BiOCl is a promising photoanode material that is widely used in the degradation of organic pollutants in wastewater. Polyoxometalates (POMs) can facilitate the photocatalytic degradation of pollutants by trapping electrons and storing several electrons per molecule. Combining BiOCl with POMs improves the electron transfer and charge separation properties for pollutant degradation and power generation.

Researchers from the Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences and Tsinghua University School of Environment developed a novel photocatalytic hybrid fuel cell with flow-through field (F-HFC) by combining BiOCl-NH4PTA as photocatalyst with an air cathode. This system removes pollutants from wastewater and generates electricity at the same time.

The generator theory of F-HFC system was further explained, and researchers found that dyes and biomass could be directly degraded in F-HFC with enhanced pollutant degradation and electricity generation. The study showed that polyoxometalate (NH4PTA) could slow down the recombination of photogenerated electrons and holes, leading to superior photocatalytic degradation.

This work advances the design of high-performance photocatalysts coupled with fuel cell systems with flow-through fields and provides new solutions for the treatment of refractory wastewater and simultaneous energy recovery.

This study represents an important step towards sustainable energy generation from wastewater and highlights the potential for further research in the field.

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In-Article Image Credits

Smoggy air pollution rising from a smokestack at a brick factory via Wikimedia Commons by Janak Bhatta with usage type - Creative Commons License. March 11, 2019

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Smoggy air pollution rising from a smokestack at a brick factory via Wikimedia Commons by Janak Bhatta with usage type - Creative Commons License. March 11, 2019

 

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