Remediation of water pollution caused by pharmaceutical residues based on electrochemical separation and degradation technologies: a review.

Research paper by Ignasi I Sirés, Enric E Brillas

Indexed on: 25 Aug '11Published on: 25 Aug '11Published in: Environment International


In the last years, the decontamination and disinfection of waters by means of direct or integrated electrochemical processes are being considered as a very appealing alternative due to the significant improvement of the electrode materials and the coupling with low-cost renewable energy sources. Many electrochemical technologies are currently available for the remediation of waters contaminated by refractory organic pollutants such as pharmaceutical micropollutants, whose presence in the environment has become a matter of major concern. Recent reviews have focused on the removal of pharmaceutical residues upon the application of other important methods like ozonation and advanced oxidation processes. Here, we present an overview on the electrochemical methods devised for the treatment of pharmaceutical residues from both, synthetic solutions and real pharmaceutical wastewaters. Electrochemical separation technologies such as membrane technologies, electrocoagulation and internal micro-electrolysis, which only isolate the pollutants from water, are firstly introduced. The fundamentals and experimental set-ups involved in technologies that allow the degradation of pharmaceuticals, like anodic oxidation, electro-oxidation with active chlorine, electro-Fenton, photoelectro-Fenton and photoelectrocatalysis among others, are further discussed. Progress on the promising solar photoelectro-Fenton process devised and further developed in our laboratory is especially highlighted and documented. The abatement of total organic carbon or reduction of chemical oxygen demand from contaminated waters allows the comparison between the different methods and materials. The routes for the degradation of the some pharmaceuticals are also presented.