Biofilm characteristics for providing resilient denitrification in a hydrogen-based membrane biofilm reactor

Yongsun Jang, Sang Hoon Lee, Na Kyung Kim, Chang Hoon Ahn, Bruce E. Rittmann, Hee Deung Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


In a hydrogen-based membrane biofilm reactor (H2-MBfR), the biofilm thickness is considered to be one of the most important factors for denitrification. Thick biofilms in MBfRs are known for low removal fluxes owing to their resistance to substrate transport. In this study, the H2-MBfR was operated under various loading rates of oxyanions, such as NO3-N, SO4-S, and ClO4 at an H2 flux of 1.06 e eq/m2-d. The experiment was initiated with NO3-N, SO4-S, and ClO4 loadings of 0.464, 0.026, and 0.211 e eq/m2-d, respectively, at 20 °C. Under the most stressful conditions, the loading rates increased simultaneously to 1.911, 0.869, and 0.108 e eq/m2-d, respectively, at 10 °C. We observed improved performance in significantly thicker biofilms (approximately 2.7 cm) compared to previous studies using a denitrifying H2-MBfR for 120 days. Shock oxyanion loadings led to a decrease in total nitrogen (TN) removal by 20 to 30%, but TN removal returned to 100% within a few days. Similarly, complete denitrification was observed, even at 10 °C. The protective function and microbial diversity of the thick biofilm may allow stable denitrification despite stress-imposing conditions. In the microbial community analysis, heterotrophs were dominant and acetogens accounted for 11% of the biofilm. Metagenomic results showed a high abundance of functional genes involved in organic carbon metabolism and homoacetogenesis. Owing to the presence of organic compounds produced by acetogens and autotrophs, heterotrophic denitrification may occur simultaneously with autotrophic denitrification. As a result, the total removal flux of oxyanions (1.84 e eq/m2-d) far exceeded the H2 flux (1.06 e eq/m2-d). Thus, the large accumulation of biofilms could contribute to good resilience and enhanced removal fluxes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119654
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Mar 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Korea Environment Industry & Technology Institute (KEITI) through the Subsurface Environmental Management (SEM) projects funded by the Korea Ministry of Environment (MOE) ( 2019002480002 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd


  • Biofilm
  • Denitrification
  • Membrane biofilm reactor
  • Performance resilience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Ecological Modelling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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