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Evaluation of the technoeconomic feasibility of electrochemical hydrogen peroxide production for decentralized water treatment

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Gas diffusion electrode (GDE) is a suitable setup for practical water treatment. • Electrochemical H2O2 production is an economically competitive technology. • High current efficiency of H2O2 production was obtained with GDE at 5–400 mA/cm2. • GDE maintained high stability for H2O2 production for ~1000 h. • Electro-generation of H2O2 enhances ibuprofen removal in an E-peroxone process. This study evaluated the feasibility of electrochemical hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) production with gas diffusion electrode (GDE) for decentralized water treatment. Carbon black-polytetrafluoroethylene GDEs were prepared and tested in a continuous flow electrochemical cell for H2O2 production from oxygen reduction. Results showed that because of the effective oxygen transfer in GDEs, the electrode maintained high apparent current efficiencies (ACEs,>80%) for H2O2 production over a wide current density range of 5–400 mA/cm2, and H2O2 production rates as high as ~202 mg/h/cm2 could be obtained. Long-term stability test showed that the GDE maintained high ACEs (>85%) and low energy consumption (<10 kWh/kg H2O2) for H2O2 production for 42 d (~1000 h). However, the ACEs then decreased to ~70% in the following 4 days because water flooding of GDE pores considerably impeded oxygen transport at the late stage of the trial. Based on an electrode lifetime of 46 days, the overall cost for H2O2 production was estimated to be ~0.88 $/kg H2O2, including an electricity cost of 0.61 $/kg and an electrode capital cost of 0.27 $/kg. With a 9 cm2 GDE and 40 mA/cm2 current density, ~2–4 mg/L of H2O2 could be produced on site for the electro-peroxone treatment of a 1.2 m3/d groundwater flow, which considerably enhanced ibuprofen abatement compared with ozonation alone (~43%–59% vs. 7%). These findings suggest that electrochemical H2O2 production with GDEs holds great promise for the development of compact treatment technologies for decentralized water treatment at a household and community level.