Mechanism of charged pollutants removal in an ion exchange membrane bioreactor: drinking water denitrification

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The mechanism of anionic pollutant removal in an ion exchange membrane bioreactor (IEMB) was studied for drinking water denitrification. This hybrid process combines continuous ion exchange transport (Donnan dialysis) of nitrate and its simultaneous bioreduction to gaseous nitrogen. A nonporous mono-anion permselective membrane precludes direct contact between the polluted water and the denitrifying culture and prevents secondary pollution of the treated water with dissolved nutrients and metabolic products. Complete denitrification may be achieved without accumulation of NO3- and NO2- ions in the biocompartment. Focus was given to the effect of the concentration of co-ions, counterions, and ethanol on the IEMB performance. The nitrate overall mass transfer coefficient in this hybrid process was found to be 2.8 times higher compared to that in a pure Donnan dialysis process without denitrification. Furthermore, by adjusting the ratio of co-ions between the biocompartment and the polluted water compartment, the magnitude and direction of each individual anion flux can be easily regulated, allowing for flexible process operation and control. Synthetic groundwater containing 135-350 mg NO3-L-1 was treated in the IEMB system. A surface denitrification rate of 33 g NO3- per square meter of membrane per day was obtained at a nitrate loading rate of 360 g NO3-m-3d-1, resulting in a nitrate removal efficiency of 85%.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-254
Number of pages10
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Denitrification
  • Donnan dialysis
  • Drinking water
  • Hybrid process
  • Ion exchange membrane bioreactor


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