Evaluation of Trickle Bed Air Biofilter Performance as a Function of Inlet VOC Concentration and Loading, and Biomass Control

Francis L. Smith, George A. Sorial, Makram T. Suidan, Amit Pandit, Pratim Biswas, Richard C. Brenner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


The 1990 Amendments to the Clean Air Act have stimulated strong interest in the use of biofiltration for the economical, engineered control of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in effluent air streams. Trickle bed air biofilters (TBABs) are especially applicable for treating VOCs at high loadings. For long-term, stable operation of highly loaded TBABs, removal of excess accumulated bio-mass is essential. Our previous research demonstrated that suitable biomass control for TBABs was achievable by periodic backwashing of the biofilter medium. Backwashing was performed by fluidizing the pelletized biological attachment medium with warm water to about a 40% bed expansion. This paper presents an evaluation of the impact of backwashing on the performance of four such TBABs highly loaded with toluene. The inlet VOC concentrations studied were 250 and 500 ppmv toluene, and the loadings were 4.1 and 6.2 kg COD/m3 day (55 and 83 g toluene/m3 hr). Loading is defined as kg of chemical oxygen demand per cubic meter of medium per day. Performance deterioration at the higher loading was apparently due to a reduction of the specific surface of the attached biofilm resulting from the accumulation of excess biomass. For a toluene loading of 4.1 kg COD/m3 day, it was demonstrated that the long-term performance of biofilters with either inlet concentration could be maintained at over 99.9% VOC removal by employing a backwashing strategy consisting of a frequency of every other day and a duration of 1 hr.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)627-636
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Air and Waste Management Association
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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