N-hexane biodegradation in trickle bed air biofilters

Ashraf Aly Hassan, George A. Sorial

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


While hydrophilic compounds are degraded easily in Trickling bed air biofilters (TBABs), hydrophobic compounds are retarded until biological cultures produce a sufficient RNA or enzyme/protein to utilize this compound. Hydrophobic compounds are not readily bio-available which makes them reluctant to biodegradation as mass transfer between the gas and liquid phases is a rate limiting step. To enhance the destruction of hydrophobic compounds in TBABs, the utilization of surfactant was introduced to increase the solubility which helps overcoming the rate limiting step. The surfactant was used as well to limit the growth of excess biomass ensuring smooth flow through the biofilter bed and preventing short circuits. Two different non-ionic non-toxic surfactants were used in this study: Triton X-100 and Tomadol® 25-7. Two lab-scale controlled TBABs were operated for investigating the performance difference for n-Hexane as an example of hydrophobic volatile organic compound (VOC) with and without the addition of surfactant. Operating conditions in both TBABs were as follows: nutrient feed rate (2L/day), air flowrate (1.4L/min), bed depth (60cm), empty bed retention time (120s), bed material (diatomaceous earth pellets) and room-temperature. The inlet concentration was changed from 50 to 100ppmv. Acclimation period, removal profile along biofilter depth, nitrogen consumption, and CO2 production were compared under continuous loading operation condition. The optimum concentration of surfactant in the nutrient feed was determined by a batch experiment. The effect of different surfactant concentrations on VOC water solubility with time was studied by considering different VOC concentration sets within the TBAB loading rate range.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-296
Number of pages10
JournalWater, Air, and Soil Pollution: Focus
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Biofiltration
  • Hydrophilic compounds
  • Hydrophobic compounds
  • Surfactant
  • Trickle bed air biofilter
  • VOCs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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