Solar-driven, self-sustainable electrolysis for treating eutrophic river water: Intensified nutrient removal and reshaped microbial communities

Huaqing Liu, Tianle Kong, Lang Qiu, Rui Xu, Fangbai Li, Max Kolton, Hanzhi Lin, Lei Zhang, Lan Lin, Jiazhi Chen, Xiaoxu Sun, Pin Gao, Weimin Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


River ecosystems are the most important resource of surface freshwater, but they have frequently been contaminated by excessive nutrient input of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in particular. An efficient and economic river water treatment technology that possesses the capacity of simultaneous N and P removal is urgently required. In this study, a solar-driven, self-sustainable electrolytic treatment was conducted in situ to intensify N and P removal from eutrophic river water. Solar panel was applied to provide the electrolysis setups with energy (voltage 10 ± 0.5 V), and the current density was controlled to be 0.06 ± 0.02 mA cm−2. Results indicated that the average removal efficiencies of total N (TN) and total P (TP) under electrolysis conditions reached 72.4 ± 11.7 and 13.8 ± 5.3 mg m−2 d−1, which were 3.7- and 4.7-fold higher compared to untreated conditions. Enhanced TN removal mainly reflected the abatement of nitrate N (NO3-N) (80.6 ± 4.1%). The formation of ferric ions through the electro-dissolution of the sacrificial iron anode improved TP removal by coprecipitation with SPS. Combined high-throughput sequencing and statistical analyses revealed that electrolysis significantly reshaped the microbial communities in both the sediment-water interface and suspended sediment (SPS), and hydrogenotrophic denitrifiers (e.g., Hydrogenophaga) were highly enriched under electrolysis conditions. These findings indicated that in situ electrolysis is a feasible and effective technology for intensified nutrient removal from river water.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number144293
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 10 Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Coprecipitation
  • Electrolytic treatment
  • Microbial community characterization
  • Nitrogen and phosphorus removal
  • Solar-driven self-sustainable
  • Suspended sediment

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry


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