Mechanisms of nitrous oxide (N2O) formation and reduction in denitrifying biofilms

Fabrizio Sabba, Cristian Picioreanu, Robert Nerenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a potent greenhouse gas that can be formed in wastewater treatment processes by ammonium oxidizing and denitrifying microorganisms. While N2O emissions from suspended growth systems have been extensively studied, and some recent studies have addressed emissions from nitrifying biofilms, much less is known about N2O emissions from denitrifying biofilm processes. This research used modeling to evaluate the mechanisms of N2O formation and reduction in denitrifying biofilms. The kinetic model included formation and consumption of key denitrification species, including nitrate (NO3 -), nitrite (NO3 -), nitric oxide (NO), and N2O. The model showed that, in presence of excess of electron donor, denitrifying biofilms have two distinct layers of activity: an outer layer where there is net production of N2O and an inner layer where there is net consumption. The presence of oxygen (O2) had an important effect on N2O emission from suspended growth systems, but a smaller effect on biofilm systems. The effects of NO3 - and O2 differed significantly based on the biofilm thickness. Overall, the effects of biofilm thickness and bulk substrate concentrations on N2O emissions are complex and not always intuitive. A key mechanism for denitrifying biofilms is the diffusion of N2O and other intermediates from one zone of the biofilm to another. This leads to zones of N2O formation or consumption transformations that would not exist in suspended growth systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2753-2761
Number of pages9
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Volume114
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • biofilms
  • denitrification
  • greenhouse gases
  • modeling
  • nitrous oxide

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