Bioreduction of selenate using a hydrogen-based membrane biofilm reactor

Jinwook Chung, Robert Nerenberg, Bruce Rittmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


A H2-based, denitrifying and sulfate-reducing membrane-biofilm reactor (MBfR) was shown to be effective for removing selenate (Se(VI)) from water or wastewater by reducing it to insoluble Se0. When Se(VI) was first added to the MBfR, Se(VI) reduction-first to selenite (Se(IV)) and then mostly to Se0-took place immediately and then increased over three weeks, suggesting enrichment for dissimilatory selenium-reducing bacteria. Increasing the H2 pressure improved the Se(VI) reduction rate and total-Se removal, and lowering the influent Se(VI) concentration from 1000 to 260 μg Se/L increased the average Se removal to 94%, which corresponded to an effluent Se concentration of less than 12 μg Se/L, a value well below the standard of 50 μg Se/L. The fact that the effluent suspended solids contained reduced Se suggests that Se0 was retained in the biofilm, which detached to form the effluent suspended solids. A series of short-term experiments elaborated on how decreased influent selenate loading and increased H2 pressure could systematically improve the reduction of Se(VI) and removal of total Se. Short-term experiments also demonstrated that selenate reduction improved with lower influent nitrate concentration, suggesting that H2 was more available for selenate reduction when the H2 demand for denitrification was smaller. Complete sulfate reduction, which occurred in parallel to nitrate reduction, dominated the electron-equivalent flux. Like selenate reduction, but unlike nitrate reduction, sulfate reduction was sensitive to H2 pressure and appeared to be inhibited by selenate. Finally, selenate reduction was relatively insensitive to pH in the range of 7.0 to 9.0. This research shows that the MBfR can be effective for removing Se(VI) in water or wastewater to below the 50 μg Se/L standard.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1664-1671
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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