Biofilm reactors: An experimental and modeling study of wastewater denitrification in fluidized‐bed reactors of activated carbon particles

Isabel Coelhoso, Rui Boaventura, Alírio Rodrigues

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A fluidized‐bed biofilm reactor using activated carbon particles of 1.69 mm diameter as the support for biomass growth and molasses as the carbon source is used for wastewater denitrification. The start‐up of the reactor was successfully achieved in 1 week by using a liquor from garden soil leaching as the inoculum and a superficial velocity u0 = 5umf. Typical biofilm thickness is 800 μm; therefore covered activated carbon particles have 3.3 mm in diameter. Reactor hydrodynamics was studied by tracer (KCl solution) experiments. The analysis based on residence time distribution theory involved a model with axial dispersion flow and tracer diffusion with linear adsorption inside the biofilm. Peclet numbers higher than 100 were found, allowing the plug flow assumption for the reactor model. Experimental profiles of nitrate and nitrite species were explained by a kinetic model of two consecutive zero‐order reactions coupled with substrate diffusion inside the biofilm. Under the operating conditons used thick biofilms were obtained working in a diffusion‐controlled regime. Comparison is made with results obtained in the same reactor with sand particles as the support for biomass growth. Activated carbon as the support has the following advantages: good adsorptive characteristics, homogeneous biofilm thickness along the reactor, and easy restart‐up of the reactor. © 1992 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)625-633
Number of pages9
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1992



  • biofilm reactor
  • denitrification
  • fluidized‐bed reactor

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