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Characteristics of a Good Carrier Media

Tom owns a production factory. Every day, the factory produces 10 kg of a certain product. Based on his experience, Tom knows that, on average, one trained worker with correct tools could manage to pack and ship out 1 kg of the product daily. Being a predictive man, Tom considers the probability that one worker might get sick. To be on the safe side, he has 11trained workers instead of 10. This helps him prevent an overcapacity situation in the warehouse in the event that one of them is sick or the factory has to increase its production capacity. With his 11 trained workers and correct tools, Tom’s factory operates smoothly every day without trouble.

Now, let’s compare this with the biological wastewater treatment process. The product is the organic load to be removed by means of wastewater treatment; the trained workers and tools are equivalent to the carrier media and biomass in the wastewater treatment process, respectively. Similar to the workers who cannot pack and ship out the products without tools, the carrier MBBR media cannot remove the organic load from the wastewater without biomass.

If one day Tom’s factory starts producing another product that requires a different packing method, he doesn’t dismiss his 11 workers and hire a new group. Rather, he allows his workers time to become familiar with their new working tools. The same applies to biological wastewater treatment: The biomass that grows on the carrier MBBR bio carrier media will gradually adapt itself to remove a different type of organic load or concentration.

In order for Tom to ensure his factory can run smoothly, he needs both skilled workers and a good set of tools for them to use. The lack of either will slow down the packing speed. For biological wastewater treatment with MBBR, the biomass as well as the carrier media that acts as the housing for the bacteria are very important.

A good MBBR carrier media provides more than just a protected habitat for the bacteria to grow; it also ensures that all bacteria that grow on it are sufficiently supplied with nutrients for their metabolism. During the biological treatment process, the bacteria consume dissolved organic substances. Without sufficient nutrients, the growth of the bacteria is hindered, or worse, the bacteria die off. These phenomena will reduce the removal efficiency and lead to an unqualified wastewater discharge. Hence, a proper selection of the carrier media is essential. This decision will affect both the organic removal performance and the cost required to run the plant.

A good MBBR carrier has the following characteristics:

• A large protected surface area to maximize the amount of biomass;

• A porous surface to strengthen the biomass’s adhesion;

• An optimal substrate diffusion depth to ensure the metabolism;

• Wear-resistance for durability.

In terms of treatment, a good MBBR carrier aquaculture filter media ensures that all biomass is active to remove the organic substances from the water. From the user’s perspective, a good MBBR carrier media eases the operation and provides a variety of savings, such as in construction and operation. 

In a wastewater treatment application, the required amount of MBBR carrier media depends on the organic load that needs to be removed by means of the bacteria’s metabolism, the rate of which is influenced by water temperature and the type of substrate.

Although MBBR carrier media might just be a little piece of plastic (or some other material), its role in wastewater treatment is vital to keep the biomass active in order to deliver the best possible organic removal performance. WW

The results showed that MBBR scale has a significant effect on TAN removal rate. In general, the larger the scale the better the performance. TAN removal (rTAN) at small scale (0.8 L) is about 80% compared to that at medium scale (200 L). The difference between small scale and large scale (>20 m3) is even higher. These findings warrant further studies on whether a plateau is reached in rTAN at a certain scale; a study which will have considerable importance for optimal design and dimensioning of commercial scale RAS. It was further found that superficial air velocity is not a good scaling factor for MBBRs. Upscaling while maintaining geometry implies increasing air injection depth and therefore increased energy input will be required at a comparable superficial air velocity, which is not incorporated in the superficial air velocity term (m h−1). Superficial air velocity and plastic media filling% were found to have a strong effect on mixing time at small scale. An air velocity below a threshold of 5 m h−1 decreased TAN removal at both small and medium scale. Intense mixing at small scale increased TAN removal at low TAN concentration. However, at a high TAN concentration, the small scale MBBR always performed at not more than 80% of the capacity of the medium scale system, irrespective of the mixing conditions. Hence, the capacity of full scale systems will be under-estimated when based solely on small scale experiments.

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