Moving bed biofilm reactor technology: Process applications, design, and performance

James P. McQuarrie, Joshua P. Boltz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


The moving bed biofilm reactor (MBBR) can operate as a 2- (anoxic) or 3-(aerobic) phase system with buoyant free-moving plastic biofilm carriers. These systems can be used for municipal and industrial wastewater treatment, aquaculture, potable water denitrification, and, in roughing, secondary, tertiary, and sidestream applications. The system includes a submerged biofilm reactor and liquid-solids separation unit. The MBBR process benefits include the following: (1) capacity to meet treatment objectives similar to activated sludge systems with respect to carbon-oxidation and nitrogen removal, but requires a smaller tank volume than a clarifier-coupled activated sludge system; (2) biomass retention is clarifier-independent and solids loading to the liquid-solids separation unit is reduced significantly when compared with activated sludge systems; (3) the MBBR is a continuous-flow process that does not require a special operational cycle for biofilm thickness, LF, control (e.g., biologically active filter backwashing); and (4) liquid-solids separation can be achieved with a variety of processes, including conventional and compact high-rate processes. Information related to system design is fragmented and poorly documented. This paper seeks to address this issue by summarizing state-of-the art MBBR design procedures and providing the reader with an overview of some commercially available systems and their components.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)560-575
Number of pages16
JournalWater Environment Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Anammox
  • Biofilm
  • Carbon oxidation
  • Denitrification
  • Moving bed biofilm reactor
  • Nitrification
  • Partial nitritation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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