Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 103, Issue 15, pp 6023–6039 | Cite as

Biological nitrogen removal from wastewater using sulphur-driven autotrophic denitrification

  • Yan-Xiang Cui
  • Basanta Kumar Biswal
  • Gang Guo
  • Yang-Fan Deng
  • Hao Huang
  • Guang-Hao Chen
  • Di WuEmail author


Biological denitrification process in mainstream wastewater treatment often needs dosing supplemental electrons, consequently adding a remarkable operating cost. Organic carbon compounds are nowadays the most intensively used electron sources in full-scale wastewater treatment, corresponding with the well-understood carbon-nitrogen biogeochemistry for heterotrophic denitrification process. In the twenty-first century, the low-carbon technology is on calling to reduce the carbon footprint and relieve climate changing threatens. Autotrophic denitrification is highly recommended for mainstream wastewater treatment. The reduced-sulphur compounds (such as sulphide, elemental sulphur, and thiosulphate) could be utilised as electron donors, to drive sulphur cycle reactions to reduce nitrate and nitrite to dinitrogen gas. Based on the literature review and our own research experiences, this paper presents our perspectives on sulphur-driven autotrophic denitrification. It particularly focuses on the functional enzymes, sulphur bioreactors, and influential operating factors. Overall, this paper provides new insights on sulphur-nitrogen biogeochemistry and application as a low-carbon technology for nitrogen removal during municipal wastewater treatment.


Wastewater treatment Sulphur Autotrophic denitrification Sulphur-oxidising bacteria 


Funding information

This study was financially supported by the Hong Kong Innovation and Technology Commission (grant no. ITC-CNERC14EG03), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 51638005), and Shenzhen Science and Technology Innovation Committee Project (grant nos. JCYJ20170307174056499, JSGG2017101071620730).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Water Technology Center, Chinese National Engineering Research Center for Control and Treatment of Heavy Metal Pollution (Hong Kong Branch)The Hong Kong University of Science and TechnologyHong KongChina
  2. 2.School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST); Key Laboratory of Water and Wastewater Treatment (HUST)MOHURDWuhanChina
  3. 3.HKUST Shenzhen Institute, For Ying Tung Graduate SchoolThe Hong Kong University of Science and TechnologyGuangdongChina

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