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A modified biotrickling filter for nitrification-denitrification in the treatment of an ammonia-contaminated air stream

Raboni, Massimo, Torretta, Vincenzo
Environmental science and pollution research international 2016 v.23 no.23 pp. 24256-24264
air flow, ammonia, biochemical pathways, biofilm, biofilters, denitrification, denitrifying bacteria, nitrification, nitrifying bacteria, nitrogen, nitrous acid, pH, synergism
A conventional biotrickling filter for airborne ammonia nitrification has been modified, by converting the liquid sump into a biological denitrifying reactor. The biotrickling filter achieves an average ammonia removal efficiency of 92.4 %, with an empty bed retention time (EBRT) equal to 36 s and an average ammonia concentration of 54.7 mg Nm⁻³ in the raw air stream. The denitrification reactor converts ammonia into inert gas N₂, in addition to other important advantages connected to the alkaline character of the biochemical pathway of the denitrifying bacteria. Firstly, the trickling water crossing the denitrification reactor underwent a notable pH increase from 7.3 to 8.0 which prevented the acidic inhibition of the nitrifying bacteria due to the buildup of nitric and nitrous acids. Secondly, the pH increase created the ideal conditions for the autotrophic nitrifying bacteria. The tests proved that an ammonia removal efficiency of above 90 % can be achieved with an EBRT greater than 30 s and a volumetric load lower than 200 g NH₃ m⁻³ day⁻¹. The results of the biofilm observation by using a scanning confocal laser microscope are reported together with the identification of degrading bacteria genera in the biotrickling filter. The efficiency of the plant and its excellent operational stability highlight the effectiveness of the synergistic action between the denitrification reactor and the biotrickling filter in removing airborne ammonia.