From waste to resource: Training young researchers on developing innovative, circular solutions for wastewater treatment sludge - INCLUE

DC3: Electrochemical Treatment Of Sludge to recover metals and improve sludge properties

Project title: Impact of electrochemical treatment on sludge biodegradable character and physical properties (WP1)

Host Institution: Nijhuis

Country: Netherlands

Supervisors: Nadine Boelee, Yasmina Doekhi-Bennani, Raf Dewil (PhD promoter); Co-supervisors: David du Pasquier (WATCHFROG), Elisabete Costa (UAveiro)

Objectives: to develop an energy-efficient electrochemical pre-treatment (EPT) process to achieve both efficient heavy metal removal and pathogen inactivation, while simultaneously increasing sludge biodegradability and dewaterability.

DC3 will investigate the influence of the most important process conditions to simultaneously maximize (i) in-situ generation of active chlorine species and hydroxyl radicals produced (i.e., electro-oxidation) for the removal of heavy metals and inactivation of pathogens in sludge, and (ii) the promotion of nutrient winning (P), Al, Fe and Ni (i.e., electro-disposition and electrowinning). Additional beneficial effects of EPT that will be monitored are: (i) enhanced biodegradability as the resulting cell wall lysis increases the bio-accessibility of the sludge organic components, and (ii) enhanced biostability and dewaterability of the sludge. Applied power, electrode materials and configuration will be explored in first instance. ORP (measure for oxygen species), heavy metal content, pathogen abundance, capillary suction time (measure for dewaterability) and organic matter solubilisation will be measured as primary output parameters.

Expected results: Electrochemical pre-treatment strategy to simultaneously recover heavy metals, inactivate pathogens and increase sludge biodegradability

Enrolment in Doctoral degree(s): KU LEUVEN Arenberg Doctoral School of Science, Engineering and Technology (BE)

Planned secondments:

  • Watchfrog (Sup.: D. du Pasquier): M20-23 (4 months): Training in embryotoxicity assessment of organic pollutants using Xenopus Eleuthero embryo Thyroid Assays (XETA).
  • University of Aveiro (Sup.: E. Costa): M28-31 (4 months): Investigating different functionalised engineered biochar-based materials for their potential to remove heavy metals from sludge and economic comparison with EPT

Candidate requirements:
  • You hold a master’s degree in (electro)chemistry, chemical engineering or a similar field.
  • You are interested in electrochemical and/or oxidative purification processes as well as biological wastewater treatment.
  • You are committed to high quality research with environmental impact in an industrial setting.
  • You are able to analyze your results on a scientific level and you can also translate these results into a full-scale (industrial) application.
  • You speak and write fluent English.
  • You are an enthusiastic and motivated person, ready to participate in personal training, international travel and public awareness activities.
  • To be able to successfully fulfill this position, you must also have the following competencies: curious, proactive, creative, analytical and communicative.