BACKGROUND: The discharge of azo dyes into the environment poses concerns due to their limited biodegradability. The electro-Fenton process (EF) is a good method to effectively degrade these dyes. The aim of this work was to study the mechanism and the feasibility of the EF reaction using an activated carbon fibre (ACF) cathode. In this study, two methods were used to measure the reactive species generated in anodic oxidation (AO), anodic oxidation with electrogenerated H2O2 (AO-H2O2) and the EF process. Acid Red 14 (AR14) was chosen as a model pollutant. The effects of the operational parameters, pH and initial concentrations were investigated. A short-term biodegradability test was also carried out to evaluate the EF process from a biological point of view. RESULTS: After 2 h EF reaction 118.7 μmol L-1•OH were produced, which was much higher than that of the AO-H2O2 (63.2 μmol L-1) process. H2O2 is largely generated and Fe3+ efficiently reduced on the high surface area of the ACF cathode. The EF process provides more effective degradation of AR14 than the conventional Fenton process, and its current efficiency is significantly affected by the initial pH and the initial AR14 concentration. Following EF treatment, the biodegradability of AR14 is significantly increased. CONCLUSION: The higher formation of •OH in the EF process suggests it is an effective method for pollutant removal. This process also leads to increased biodegradability, which is expected to facilitate subsequent biological treatment.
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