Low cost, low maintenance and energy-generating onsite systems for the treatment of landfill leachate with high ammonium content are in urgent need, especially for landfills located in low population areas where landfills are smaller and often at a distance from sewage systems and lack trained personnel. The purpose of this study was to design and test two continuous microbial fuel cell (MFC) reactors, i.e., an ammonium oxidation/MFC reactor and a MFC/Anammox reactor for the treatment of landfill leachate in terms of power generation, organic compound decomposition and nitrogen removal. For both of the reactors, in addition to energy generation from landfill leachate treatment, combined carbon and nitrogen removal was achieved. Energy generation resulted from the oxidation of organic components in the landfill leachate was achieved by separating electron release in the anodic chamber from its consumption in the cathodic chamber. Nitrate served as the electron acceptor for the ammonium oxidation/MFC reactor and nitrite served as the electron acceptor for the MFC/Anammox reactor. During the energy generation process, nitrogen was removed through nitrate reduction or nitrite reduction in the cathodic chamber. Both of these two reactors were “loop-operated”, during which the treated landfill leachate was looped from the anodic chamber to the cathodic chamber. Consequently, the acidity produced in the anodic chamber could partially offset the alkalinity produced by nitrate or nitrite reduction. This technology has the potential to be applied to small landfills located at a distance from sewage systems.

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