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Journal Articles Water Research Year : 2022

Overcoming barriers for nitrate electrochemical reduction: By-passing water hardness


Water matrix composition impacts water treatment performance. However, matrix composition impacts have rarely been studied for electrochemical water treatment processes, and the correlation between the composition and the treatment efficiency is lacking. This work evaluated the electrochemical reduction of nitrate (ERN) using different complex water matrices: groundwater, brackish water, and reverse osmosis (RO) concentrate/brine. The ERN was conducted using a tin (Sn) cathode because of the high selectivity towards nitrogen evolution reported for Sn electrocatalysts. The coexistence of calcium (Ca 2+), magnesium (Mg 2+), and carbonate (CO 3 2-) ions in water caused a 4-fold decrease in the nitrate conversion into innocuous nitrogen gas due to inorganic scaling formation on the cathode surface. XRF and XRD analysis of fouled catalyst surfaces detected brucite (Mg(OH) 2), calcite (CaCO 3), and dolomite (CaMg(CO 3) 2) mineral scales formed on the cathode surface. Surface scaling created a physical barrier on the electrode that decreased the ERN efficiency. Identifying these main sources of ERN inhibition was a key to devising potential fouling mitigation strategies. For this reason, the chemical softening pre-treatment of a real brackish water was conducted and this significantly increased nitrate conversion and faradaic efficiency during subsequent ERN treatment, leading to a lower electric energy consumption per order. Understanding the ionic foulant composition responsible for influencing electrochemically-driven technologies are the first steps that must be taken to move towards niche applications such as decentralized ERN. Thus, we propose either direct ERN implementation in regions facing high nitrate levels in soft waters, or a hybrid softening/nitrate removal system for those regions where high nitrate and high-water hardness appear simultaneously.
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Dates and versions

hal-03790519 , version 1 (28-09-2022)



Aksana Atrashkevich, Ana Sofia Fajardo, Paul Westerhoff, W. Shane Walker, Carlos M Sánchez-Sánchez, et al.. Overcoming barriers for nitrate electrochemical reduction: By-passing water hardness. Water Research, 2022, 225, pp.119118. ⟨10.1016/j.watres.2022.119118⟩. ⟨hal-03790519⟩
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