An investigation on the ion exchange membrane bioreactor with a spiral wound contactor for nitrate removal from contaminated groundwater

Akshaya Kumar Verma, Yoram Oren, Jack Gilron, Zeev Ronen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


In the present study, we report the first operation of a pilot scale ion exchange membrane bioreactor (IEMB). It treated 1–2 m3/d of water contaminated with nitrate. IEMB was made up of anion exchange membrane spiral module integrated with a fixed bed bioreactor (FBBR), a novel configuration for an IEMB system. Nitrate elimination was accomplished through Donnan dialysis using chloride as counter ion followed by heterotrophic denitrification in an anoxic FBBR employing glycerol as electron donor and carbon source. The performance of IEMB revealed an excellent nitrate removal at the selected operating conditions, successfully eliminating a nitrate loading rate of 5.0 kg NO3/m3/d and producing 30 ± 5 mg/L nitrate in the effluent at steady state. Anion exchange membrane being non-selective also transferred a significant concentration of sulphate from the feed-side to the bio-side leading to sulphate accumulation in FBBR. As a result, denitrification performance was affected due to the activation of sulphate reducing bacteria leading to the upset of FBBR. Batch experimental study aiming to screen the effect of nitrate to sulphate ratio on denitrification, demonstrated the possible occurrence of sulphate reduction at [nitrate]/[sulphate] < 0.2, exhibiting a highly negative oxidation reduction potential (ORP) value (−450 mV). This signifies that a minimum [nitrate]/[sulphate] > 0.2 is required as to suppress sulphate reduction phenomenon during denitrification. IEMB calibration for denitrification using glycerol as a carbon source revealed that 100 % stoichiometric donor/acceptor (C/N) ratio was suitable for producing sufficient nitrate biodegradation and acceptable ORP value (~−220 mV). Present work established promising application prospects of IEMB comprising nitrate selective membrane module for the treatment of high nitrate wastewater with a treatment capacity of 1.5 m3/d at optimized operating conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116080
StatePublished - 15 Nov 2022


  • Denitrification
  • Donnan dialysis
  • FBBR
  • IEMB
  • Nitrate
  • ORP
  • Sulphate reduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Materials Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering


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