A multi-species nitrifying biofilm model (MSNBM) is developed to describe nitrite accumulation by simultaneous free ammonia (FA) and free nitrous acid (FNA) inhibition, direct pH inhibition, and oxygen limitation in a biofilm. The MSNBM addresses the spatial gradient of pH with biofilmdepth and how it induces changes of FA and FNA speciation and inhibition. Simulations using theMSNBMin a completely mixed biofilm reactor show that influent total ammonia nitrogen (TAN) concentration, bulk dissolved oxygen (DO) concentration, and buffer concentration exert significant control on the suppression of nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB) and shortcut biological nitrogen removal (SBNR), but the pH in the bulk liquid has a weaker influence. Ammonium oxidation increases the nitrite concentration and decreases the pH, which together can increase FNA inhibition of NOB in the biofilm. Thus, a low buffer concentration can accentuate SBNR. DO and influent TAN concentrations are efficient means to enhance DO limitation, which affects NOB more than ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) inside the biofilm.With high influent TAN concentration, FA inhibition is dominant at an early phase, but finally DO limitation becomes more important as TAN degradation and biofilm growth proceed. MSNBM results indicate that oxygen depletion and FNA inhibition throughout the biofilmcontinuously suppress the growth ofNOB, which helps achieve SBNR with a lower TAN concentration than in systems without concentration gradients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1115-1130
Number of pages16
JournalBiotechnology and bioengineering
Issue number6
StatePublished - Apr 15 2010


  • Ammonium oxidation
  • Biofilm modeling
  • Free ammonia inhibition
  • Free nitrous acid inhibition
  • Nitrite oxidation
  • Oxygen limitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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