Energy Efficient Ammonium Oxidation: Development of a Feammox Electrolysis Cell Reactor

2015 Seed Grant

Award Period: 2015-2018

Biological ammonium oxidation in wastewater requires aeration is energy intensive, consuming roughly 50 percent of the energy input to wastewater treatment plants. Feammox is a newly discovered biological anaerobic ammonium-oxidation process that uses iron oxides as electron acceptor. A Feammox-based treatment system would not require aeration, thus reducing energy consumption. The high iron requirements, however, mean that there might not be a practical way of developing a full-scale Feammox reactor. Preliminary results have shown that Feammox can be carried out in Microbial Electrolysis Cells (MECs) where the electron is deposited on the anode as opposed to the iron oxide. Hence, this research will consist of a rigorous study to determine how to use MECs to obtain ammonium removal rates that are comparable to traditional treatment technology, including manipulation of the media that favors the Feammox kinetics as well as electrode design that minimizes mass-transfer limitations.

Educational Impacts

A postdoctoral researcher is budgeted plus a summer graduate student. Undergraduate students will be involved jointly with the graduate student and the postdoc will develop a module to include MEC demonstrations in laboratory courses.


William L. Knapp ’47 Professor of Civil Engineering
Daniel Steingart
Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment

Research Associates

Undergraduate Students

  • Melany Ruiz, Class of 2016