Research database

EACTIVE - SteeRing GroundwatEr Electro-bioremediAtion with ConducTIVe ParticlEs

24 months (2025)
Principal investigator(s):
Project type:
Nationally funded research - PRIN
Funding body:
Project identification number:
PoliTo role:


Anthropogenic pollution of groundwater by organic and inorganic contaminants (e.g., petroleum hydrocarbons, pharmaceuticals, nitrate, etc..) is an issue of ever-increasing relevance, particularly in consideration of the fact that more than half of the global freshwater supply for drinking, industrial uses, and irrigation comes from groundwater. Due to their unprecedented flexibility and environmental sustainability, microbial electrochemical technologies (MET) are increasingly being considered for the treatment of groundwater contaminated by a variety of organic and inorganic pollutants. Despite the promising results obtained at the lab-scale, several hurdles still limit the transition of MET-based bioremediation from the laboratory to the field. The most striking one being probably the lack of technically and economically viable system configurations. To address this critical limitation, REACTIVE aims to test, develop and validate a game-changing approach based on the novel concept of “diffuse electrically conductive zones”. These are created through the injection in the aquifer of environmentally safe (iron- or carbon-based) conductive (nano)particles, which upon transport and subsequent deposition over soil particles create an electrically conductive zone which could be exploited to control and fine-tune the delivery of electron donors or acceptors over a large distance, and accordingly drive the electro-bioremediation process in a more efficient manner. REACTIVE will tackle different types of groundwater contaminants, namely aromatic hydrocarbons and a model pharmaceutical compound, as well as nitrate and a model brominated flame retardant. REACTIVE activities and processes will be first tested and optimized at the lab-scale under highly controlled conditions and then validated at a pilot-scale under highly representative environmental conditions (e.g., using real soil and groundwater from a contaminated site). Developed technologies will then be benchmarked against conventional (bio)remediation processes by taking into account a number of key performance indicators, including the rate and efficiency of contaminant(s) degradation, formation of side products, energy consumption, chemicals requirements and ecotoxicological effects. Overall, REACTIVE will not only generate new fundamental and applied knowledge with respect to the possibility to enhance and manipulate in situ biodegradation processes based on extracellular-electron transfer using electrically conductive (nano)particles but has the ambition to bring technologies which have had so far only academic interest into the field application and make them available for end-users.



  • Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche - Coordinator
  • Università degli Studi di BOLOGNA


ERC sectors

LS9_7 - Environmental biotechnology (including bioremediation, biodegradation)
PE8_11 - Sustainable design (for recycling, for environment, eco-design)


Total cost: € 266,752.00
Total contribution: € 206,941.00
PoliTo total cost: € 92,064.00
PoliTo contribution: € 68,569.00