Autotrophic nitrogen removal in membrane-aerated biofilms: Archaeal ammonia oxidation versus bacterial ammonia oxidation

Yiwen Liu, Huu Hao Ngo, Wenshan Guo, Lai Peng, Yuting Pan, Jianhua Guo, Xueming Chen, Bing Jie Ni*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Recent discovery of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) not only substantially improved our understanding of the global nitrogen cycle, but also provided new possibilities for nitrogen removal from wastewater. In particular, compared to ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB), the high ammonia oxidation under oxygen-limited conditions driven by AOA is potentially more suitable for autotrophic nitrogen removal in a single-stage membrane aerated biofilm reactor (MABR) through coupling with anaerobic ammonia oxidation (Anammox). In this work, mathematical modeling is applied to assess the system performance and associated microbial community structure of an AOA–Anammox MABR under low- (30 mg N L−1) and high-strength (500 mg N L−1) ammonium conditions, with a side-by-side comparison to an AOB–Anammox MABR system under the same conditions. Results demonstrate that both ammonium surface loading (or hydraulic retention time) and oxygen surface loading significantly affect the system performance. In contrast to AOB–Anammox system, the AOA–Anammox MABR shows higher total nitrogen (TN) removal and lower oxygen supply, with much better repression of NOB and substantially wider operating window for high-level TN removal (>80%) in terms of varied oxygen and ammonium loadings. These results provide first insights and useful information for design and operation of this novel AOA–Anammox MABR system in its potential future applications.

Original languageEnglish
JournalChemical Engineering Journal
Pages (from-to)535-544
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Ammonia-oxidizing archaea
  • Ammonia-oxidizing bacteria
  • Anammox
  • Mathematical modeling
  • Membrane aerated biofilm reactor

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