Optimization of electrocatalytic H2O2 production at pilot plant scale for solar-assisted water treatment
This manuscript summarizes the successful start-up and operation of a hybrid eco-engineered water treatment system, at pilot scale. The pilot unit, with 100 L capacity, has been devised for the efficient electrocatalytic production of H2O2 at an air-diffusion cathode, triggering the formation of % OH from Fenton’s reaction with added Fe2+ catalyst. These radicals, in combination with those formed at a powerful boron-doped diamond (BDD) anode in an undivided cell, are used to degrade a mixture of model pesticides. The capability of the plant to produce H2O2 on site was initially optimized using an experimental design based on central composite design (CCD) coupled with response surface methodology (RSM). This aimed to evaluate the effect of key process parameters like current density (j) and solution pH. The influence of electrolyte concentration as well as liquid and air flow rates on H2O2 electrogeneration and current efficiency at optimized j and pH was also assessed. The best operation conditions resulted in H2O2 mass production rate of 64.9 mg min−1, 89.3% of current efficiency and 0.4 kWh m-3 of energy consumption at short electrolysis time. Performance tests at optimum conditions were carried out with 75 L of a mixture of pesticides (pyrimethanil and methomyl) as a first step towards the elimination of organic contaminants by solar photoelectro-Fenton (SPEF) process. The combined action of homogeneous (%OH) and heterogeneous (BDD(%OH)) catalysis along with photocatalysis (UV photons collected at a solar CPC photoreactor) allowed the removal of more than 50% of both pesticides in 5 min, confirming the fast regeneration of Fe2+ catalyst through cathodic reduction and photo-Fenton reaction.