Population balance models: a useful complementary modelling framework for future WWTP modelling

Ingmar Nopens, Elena Torfs, Joel Ducoste, Peter A. Vanrolleghem, Krist V. Gernaey

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Population balance models (PBMs) represent a powerful modelling framework for the description of the dynamics of properties that are characterised by distributions. This distribution of properties under transient conditions has been demonstrated in many chemical engineering applications. Modelling efforts of several current and future unit processes in wastewater treatment plants could potentially benefit from this framework, especially when distributed dynamics have a significant impact on the overall unit process performance. In these cases, current models that rely on average properties cannot sufficiently capture the true behaviour and even lead to completely wrong conclusions. Examples of distributed properties are bubble size, floc size, crystal size or granule size. In these cases, PBMs can be used to develop new knowledge that can be embedded in our current models to improve their predictive capability. Hence, PBMs should be regarded as a complementary modelling framework to biokinetic models. This paper provides an overview of current applications, future potential and limitations of PBMs in the field of wastewater treatment modelling, thereby looking over the fence to other scientific disciplines.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWater Science and Technology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)159-167
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Bubble size
  • Crystal size
  • Floc size
  • Granule size
  • Mathematical biology and statistical methods
  • Biophysics
  • Public health
  • Computational Biology
  • Sanitation
  • Biokinetic model mathematical and computer techniques
  • Population balance model mathematical and computer techniques
  • Wastewater treatment modeling mathematical and computer techniques
  • Models and Simulations
  • Waste Management
  • Engineering
  • Environmental
  • Water
  • Activated-sludge flocculation
  • Waste-water treatment
  • Distributed bacterial states
  • Size distribution
  • Inverse problem
  • Simulation
  • Crystallization
  • Aggregation
  • Removal
  • Distributed properties
  • PBM
  • Product specifications
  • Quality by design
  • Biocybernetics
  • Sewage disposal and sanitary measures


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