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Next-Generation Electrochemical Technology for the Treatment of Hospital Wastewater: Electrogenerated Sulfate Radicals for Complete Destruction of Persistent Pollutants


Hospital wastewater effluents have been identified as the primary sources of DNA-damaging compounds, and are considered as the major source of antibiotic resistance in the environment. They exhibit significantly higher pollution, up to 3,500 mg/L of chemical oxygen demand, compared to municipal sewage (i.e. 100-500 mg/L).

There is no established technology for the treatment of hospital wastewater. Biological treatment is incapable of degrading more persistent contaminants, e.g. organohalogens, cytostatics, and antibacterial agents. Reverse osmosis membranes are very energy intensive, and generate large amounts of retentate that requires further treatment. The major constraint of chemical oxidation processes is the requirement for high chemical dosages for heavily polluted hospital wastewater.

This project proposes a next-generation technology for the treatment of contaminated hospital wastewater, based on the electrochemical generation of sulfate and hydroxyl radicals. Highly oxidizing sulfate and hydroxyl radicals are formed by applying current to an anode at atmospheric temperature and pressure. Excellent preliminary results achieved show an outstanding capacity of the electrochemically generated sulfate radicals in removing persistent organic contaminants at up to 80 times higher rates than with hydroxyl radicals alone. Sulfate radicals react mainly through electron transfer and hence are less subject to scavenging by the background matrix, which allows their accumulation in the solution and drastically enhances the oxidation efficiency.

The process offers several important advantages over existing oxidation technologies as it does not generate secondary pollution, has no pH limitations and does not require any external activators (e.g. iron). The project will develop a novel, clean platform technology for hospital wastewater remediation, yet applicable to the treatment of other types of contaminated waste streams, e.g. industrial wastewater.

Call for proposal

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Calle Emili Grahit Edifici H20 101
17003 Girona

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Activity type
Research Organisations
Administrative Contact
Jaume Alemany (Dr.)
EU contribution
€ 173 370,60