Electrochemical-Osmotic Process for Simultaneous Recovery of Electric Energy, Water, and Metals from Wastewater

Meng Sun, Mohan Qin, Chi Wang, Guoming Weng, Mingxin Huo, André D. Taylor, Jiuhui Qu, Menachem Elimelech

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A highly-efficient, autonomous electrochemical-osmotic system (EOS) is developed for simultaneous recovery of electric energy, water, and metals from wastewater. We demonstrate that the system can generate a maximum electric power density of 10.5 W m-2 using a spontaneous Fe/Cu2+ galvanic cell, while simultaneously achieving copper recovery from wastewater. With an osmotic pressure difference generated by the deployed electrochemical reactions, water is osmotically extracted from the feed solution with the EOS at a water flux of 5.1 L m-2 h-1. A scaled-up EOS realizes a power density of 105.8 W per m-3 of treated water to light an LED over 24 h while also enhancing water extraction and metal recovery. The modularized EOS obtains ultrahigh (>97.5%) Faradaic efficiencies under variable operating conditions, showing excellent system stability. The EOS is also versatile: it can recover Au, Ag, and Hg from wastewaters with simultaneous electricity and water coproduction. Our study demonstrates a promising pathway for realizing multiresource recycling from wastewater by coupling electrochemical and osmosis-driven processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8430-8442
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 7 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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