Nitrogen and carbon components in domestic modified wastewater were completely removed by simultaneous nitrification and denitrification using a membrane-aerated biofilm reactor where biofilm was fixed on a hollow-fiber membrane. To measure the spatial distribution of pH, ammonium and nitrate ions and to observe microbes inside the biofilm fixed on the membrane, microelectrodes and the fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) method were applied. Due to plug flow in the vertical direction (from the bottom to the top of the reactor), ammonium nitrogen was gradually removed and negligible nitrate nitrogen was detected throughout the reactor. FISH revealed that ammoniaoxidizing bacteria were mainly distributed inside the biofilm and other bacteria, which included denitrifying bacteria, were mainly distributed outside the biofilm and over the suspended sludge. In order to characterize bacterial activity in the vertical direction of the reactor, nitrification rates at lower, central and upper points were calculated using microelectrode data. The nitrification rate at the lower point was 7 and 125 times higher than those at the central and upper points, respectively. These results show that the removal of carbon and nitrogen compounds was accomplished efficiently by using various kinds of bacteria distributed vertically and horizontally in a single reactor.
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