Bioregenerated ion-exchange process: The effect of the biofilm on ion-exchange capacity and kinetics

Ori Lahav, Michal Green*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


A new process for ammonium removal from wastewater using zeolite has been developed. The zeolite (chabazite) serves the dual purpose of an ion exchanger and a physical carrier for nitrifying bacteria which bio-regenerate the ammonium-saturated mineral. The entire process is carried out in a single, compact reactor and takes place in two phases: ion-exchange phase and bioregeneration phase. This paper describes the effects of the biofilm on ion-exchange capacity and kinetics. Batch and continuous experiments showed a reduction of about 25 to 30% in the ion-exchange rate in biofilm covered chabazite as compared to virgin chabazite, while the ion-exchange capacity did not change. Experiments conducted indicated that the rate-controlling step for ion exchange shifted from pore diffusion in the virgin chabazite to film diffusion in the biofilm-covered chabazite. The diffusion rate of NH4+ inside biofilms is of the same order of magnitude as diffusion rate of NH4+ in water and 3 to 4 orders of magnitude greater than typical pore diffusion rates reported in zeolites. Therefore, the biofilm coverage of the chabazite was originally not expected to affect the ion-exchange rate. In addition, chemical precipitation was experimentally found not to be the cause for the ion-exchange rate reduction. It was hypothesised that the rate-limiting factor for ion exchange was caused by the part of the biofilm adjacent to the chabazite which differs from the rest of the biofilm and is characterised by a much higher density which impedes diffusion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-57
Number of pages7
JournalWater S.A.
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2000
Externally publishedYes


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