The aim of this study was to investigate the combination of two technologies - pulsed electric field (PEF) pre-treatment and semi-continuous pre-fermentation of primary sludge (PS) - to produce volatile fatty acids (VFAs) as the electron donor for microbial electrolysis cells (MECs). Pre-fermentation with a 3-day solids retention time (SRT) led to the maximum generation of VFAs, with or without pretreatment of the PS through pulsed-electric-fields (PEF). PEF treatment before fermentation enhanced the accumulation of the preferred VFA, acetate, by 2.6-fold. Correspondingly, MEC anodes fed with centrate from 3-day pre-fermentation of PEF-treated PS had a maximum current density ∼3.1 A/m2, which was 2.4-fold greater than the control pre-fermented centrate. Over the full duration of batch MEC experiments, using pre-fermented centrate led to successful performance in terms of Coulombic efficiency (95%), Coulombic recovery (80%), and COD-removal efficiency (85%).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-88
Number of pages6
JournalBioresource Technology
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • Microbial electrolysis cell
  • Pre-fermentation
  • Pre-treatment
  • Two-stage anaerobic treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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