Patchy biofilm coverage can explain the potential advantage of BGAC reactors

Moshe Herzberg, Carlos G Dosoretz, Sheldon Tarre, Michal Green
Environmental Science & Technology 2003 September 15, 37 (18): 4274-80
An adsorbing biofilm carrier, like granular activated carbon (GAC), can be the source of an extra flux of pollutant to the biofilm in addition to the bulk liquid. This double flux can improve the performance of a biological GAC (BGAC) reactor as compared to a nonabsorbing carrier reactor but only under conditions of pollutant partial penetration in the biofilm. Pollutant partial penetration in a biofilm often occurs in treatment processes where very low effluent concentrations are required. However, under these conditions, adsorption in BGAC reactors is questionable and requires the existence of biofilm free areas on the GAC carrier. The purpose of this investigation is to prove that under normal BGAC fluidized bed reactor operational conditions patchy biofilm coverage with exposed areas of GAC develops. Adsorption and desorption through these exposed areas can explain the widely debated advantage of BGAC reactors regarding higher biofilm activity. The patchy-like nature of the biofilm coverage on the GAC particles was verified using experimental and modeling tools. Comparison between a nonadsorbing granular carbon carrier and a GAC carrier with an atrazine degrading biofilm (Pseudomonas ADP) under conditions of atrazine partial penetration in the biofilm showed higher biodegradation and lower effluent atrazine concentrations in the BGAC reactor.

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