Use of a coupled biological system to treat a chemically complex air stream

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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


The use of biological systems to remove contaminants from waste streams has been well documented. However, when dealing with complex waste streams, the use of one biological treatment system may not be the best alternative. When treating a complex waste stream, the use of "treatment trains" or "coupled systems" may be advantageous compared with any single biological technology. This article demonstrated that a coupled system was effective in biodegrading a chemically complex mixture of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). A bench-scale system consisting of a liquid bioreactor and a biofilter was used for the biodegradation of acetone, methanol, methyl ethyl ketone, naphthalene, alpha-pinene, and toluene. The bioreactor contained an inert solid support that immobilized a microbial population. The biofiltration portion of the system utilized the same microbial inoculum but employed Douglas fir bark as its solid support. Successful biodegradation of the complex VOC mixture was accomplished with this coupled system with an average VOC removal efficiency of 96% and VOC loading rates as high as 79 g/m3/h for inlet concentrations of > 8,000 ppmv. At elevated flow rates the liquid reactor demonstrated limited removal of some compounds, such as alpha-pinene and toluene, while maintaining excellent removal of other compounds, such as methanol and acetone. The biofilter portion of the system proved very successful in degrading the remaining toluene and alpha-pinene, thus complementing the removal from the bioreactor. This study demonstrates that coupled biological systems may be utilized for a chemically complex VOC-laden air stream that previously may not have been considered for biological treatment.

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Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology