Advanced Biofilm and Aerobic Granulation Technologies for Water and Wastewater Treatment


TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


Attached growth biological processes offer advantages over traditional water purification technologies through high biomass retention, easy sludge-water separation, multiple multispecies synergies in proximity, resilience to shock loading, low space requirements, and reactor operational flexibility. Traditionally, attached growth refers to biofilms that require abiotic carrying media for bacteria to attach and grow on. While biofilms have been broadly applied in wastewater treatment, its potential for potable reuse or stormwater treatment has not been well studied. The treatment trains of pre-ozonation followed by biologically active filtration (ozone- BAF) is an advanced biofilm technology for potable reuse that can generate high-quality potable water at reduced energy and chemical demands by removing pollutant through three different pathways: oxidation, adsorption, and biodegradation. However, these pathways can result in both desirable and undesirable effects, and the mechanism behind it is still unclear. To understand the mechanisms of various pollutant removal, parallel performance comparisons of ozone-BAF treatment trains with spent and regenerated granular activated carbon (GAC), along with a range of pre-oxidant ozone doses were performed. Another common issue of BAF is the headloss buildup during its operation, which has become a significant energy and maintenance burden at many utilities. Thus, a mathematical model was developed to predict BAF headloss buildup in response to organic removal and nitrification. For stormwater treatment, the feasibility of using biofilms for stormwater biological nitrogen removal (BNR) is still largely unknown, as very limited research effort has been dedicated to this aspect. Thus, a mathematical model was developed to evaluate the potential of using BNR techniques for stormwater nitrogen removal. Aerobic granules are an even more advanced attached growth process, which eliminates the need for abiotic carrying media. So far, aerobic granular sludge is only formed in sequential batch reactors but not in a continuous flow system. Therefore, continuous flow aerobic granulation from traditional activated sludge was investigated and, for the first time, successfully achieved in continuous flow plug-flow bioreactors fed with real municipal wastewater. Besides, the role and critical value of an essential operational parameter, feast/famine ratio, for continuous flow aerobic granulation were determined.



Biofilm, Aerobic granulation, Biologically active filtration, Mathematical model, Potable reuse, Wastewater treatment