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Progress Towards Bioelectrochemical Remediation Of Hexavalent Chromium

Beretta, Daghio, Espinoza Tofalos, Franzetti, Mastorgio, Saponaro, Sezenna

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Chromium is one of the most frequently used metal contaminants. Its hexavalent form Cr(VI), which is exploited in many industrial activities, is highly toxic, is water-soluble in the full pH range, and is a major threat to groundwater resources. Alongside traditional approaches to Cr(VI) treatment based on physical-chemical methods, technologies exploiting the ability of several microorganisms to reduce toxic and mobile Cr(VI) to the less toxic and stable Cr(III) form have been developed to improve the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of remediating hexavalent chromium-contaminated groundwater. Bioelectrochemical systems (BESs), principally investigated for wastewater treatment, may represent an innovative option for groundwater remediation. By using electrodes as virtually inexhaustible electron donors and acceptors to promote microbial oxidation-reduction reactions, in in situ remediation, BESs may offer the advantage of limited energy and chemicals requirements in comparison to other bioremediation technologies, which rely on external supplies of limiting inorganic nutrients and electron acceptors or donors to ensure proper conditions for microbial activity. Electron transfer is continuously promoted/controlled in terms of current or voltage application between the electrodes, close to which electrochemically active microorganisms are located. Therefore, this enhances the options of process real-time monitoring and control, which are often limited in in situ treatment schemes. This paper reviews research with BESs for treating chromium-contaminated wastewater, by focusing on the perspectives for Cr(VI) bioelectrochemical remediation and open research issues.