Model-based investigation of membrane biofilm reactors coupling anammox with nitrite/nitrate-dependent anaerobic methane oxidation

Tao Liu, Jianhua Guo, Shihu Hu, Zhiguo Yuan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


An innovative process coupling anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox) with nitrite/nitrate-dependent anaerobic methane oxidation (n-DAMO) in membrane biofilm reactors (MBfRs) has been developed to achieve high-level nitrogen removal from both sidestream (i.e., anaerobic digestion liquor) and mainstream (i.e., domestic strength) wastewater. In this study, a 1D biofilm model embedding the n-DAMO and anammox reactions was developed to facilitate further understanding of the process and its optimization. The model was calibrated and validated using comprehensive data sets from two independent MBfRs, treating sidestream- and mainstream-strength wastewater, respectively. Modelling results revealed a unique biofilm stratification. While anammox bacteria dominated throughout the biofilm, n-DAMO archaea (coupling nitrate reduction with anaerobic methane oxidation) only occurred at the inner layer and n-DAMO bacteria (coupling nitrite reduction with anaerobic methane oxidation) spread more evenly with a slightly higher fraction in the outer layer. The established MBfRs were robust against dynamic influent flowrates and nitrite/ammonium ratios. Thicker biofilms were beneficial for not only the total nitrogen (TN) removal but also the system robustness. Additionally, a positive correlation between the nitrogen removal efficiency and the residual methane emission was observed, as a result of higher methane partial pressure required. However, there was a threshold of methane partial pressure, above which the residual methane increased but nitrogen removal efficiency was stable. Meanwhile, thicker biofilms were also favorable to achieve less residual methane emission. Simulation results also suggested the feasibility of methane-based MBfRs to polish mainstream anammox effluent to meet a stringent N discharge standard (e.g., TN < 5 mg/L).

Original languageEnglish
Article number105501
JournalEnvironment international
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Anammox
  • Biological wastewater treatment
  • Membrane biofilm reactor (MBfR)
  • Modelling
  • Nitrite/nitrate-dependent anaerobic methane oxidation (n-DAMO)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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