Electrobioremediation of sediments contaminated by aromatic halogenated compounds and enrichment of dehalogenating microbial cultures

The research activities of this fellowship will be carried out in the frame of the H2020 research project Electra “Electricity driven Low Energy and Chemical input Technology foR Accelerated bioremediation”.

The research project aims at the development of an innovative process for the electrobioremediation of sediments contaminated by polyhalogenated organic pollutants. The process is based on the use of polarized electrodes deployed in the sediment able to promote the establishment of reducing and oxidative redox conditions and to provide the anaerobic and aerobic dechlorinating microorganisms with electron donors and acceptors, either directly or indirectly through water electrolysis. This approach can represent a clean and efficient method to stimulate and control the activity of dechlorinating bacteria in contaminated environments, as it avoids the supplementation of chemicals to the contaminated matrix, and may allow to increase the selectivity and control of the process. In particular, the research activity will aim at the development of a bioelectrochemical process in which the reductive dehalogenation and oxidative degradation processes will be stimulated sequentially within the matrix in order to promote the complete degradation of the pollutant.

Research plan

The research activity will consist in:

  • the set-up of H-type bioelectrochemical cells with contaminated sediment and the conduction of the process under varying operational conditions;
  • the evaluation of the system performances through: (i) the monitoring of target pollutants and their dechlorination/biodegradation products, (ii) the monitoring of the physico-chemical parameters of the matrix, (iii) mass and energy balances, (iv) the monitoring of the composition and dynamics of the microbial community;
  • the enrichment and isolation from the contaminated sediment of dehalogenating microbial communities and their characterization in terms of composition and biodegradative abilities towards different organohalogenated pollutants;
  • the selection of the best operational parameters and the validation of the process at mesocosm scale.

As regards the training aspects, the research fellow will have the opportunity to interact, in a highly interdisciplinary environment, with researchers from different disciplines who will offer the opportunity to expand their scientific and cultural background.

Application details

For more information and the application form, see this website.