Skip to main content


Log in

Biodegradation of wastewater pollutants by activated sludge encapsulated inside calcium-alginate beads in a tubular packed bed reactor

  • Published:
Biodegradation Aims and scope Submit manuscript


The wastewater treatment plants produce large quantities of biomass (sludge) that require about one-third of the total inversion and operation plant costs for their treatment. By the microorganisms immobilization it is possible to handle high cell concentration in the reactor, increasing its efficiency, reducing the loss of biomass and the wash out is avoided. Moreover, there is no cell growth then the sludge production is reduced. In this study, the COD removal and VSS variation were modeled in a tubular reactor with activated sludge immobilized in Ca-alginate. Moreover, two aspects that are commonly not considered in the performance of the actual reactors of this kind were introduced; the performance in non-steady state and the dispersion effect. The model was calibrated with an actual wastewater taken out from a Mexican wastewater treatment plant. The results of the performance of the tubular bioreactor at different scenarios (i.e., different residence time and VSS in the reactor) are presented. With longer residence times and higher VSS concentration in the Ca-alginate beads in the tubular bioreactor it is possible to increase the time operation of the bioreactor and to treat higher volumes of wastewater. During the process, the sludge generation was drastically reduced and it is possible to remove nitrogen form the wastewater making this process more attractive.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Adly IM, Hiroyasu M, Yoshimasa Y, Kimitoshi F, Katsumi N (2001) Removal of mixtures of acetaldehyde and propionaldehyde from waste gas in packed column with immobilized activated sludge gel beads. Biochem Eng J 8:9–18. doi:10.1016/S1369-703X(00)00132-7

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bailey JE, Illis DF (1986) Biochemical engineering fundamentals, 2nd edn. McGraw Hill International Editions, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Bandhyopadhyay K, Das D, Bhattacharyya P, Maiti BR (2001) Reaction engineering studies on biodegradation of phenol by Pseudomonas putida MTCC 1194 immobilized on calcium alginate. Biochem Eng J 8:179–186. doi:10.1016/S1369-703X(01)00101-2

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Cha JM, Koh HC, Lee GY, Cha GS, Lee IH (2001). Paper P407, Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Korean Society for Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Seoul, South Korea, April, pp 293–294

  • Chena K-C, Chena C-Y, Penga J-W, Houngb J-Y (2002) Real-time control of an immobilized-cell reactor for wastewater treatment using ORP. Water Res 36:230–238. doi:10.1016/S0043-1354(01)00201-9

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chung YC, Huang C, Tseng CP (1997) Removal of hydrogen sulphide by immobilized Thiobacillus sp strain CH11 in a biofilter. J Chem Technol Biotechnol 69(1):58–62. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1097-4660(199705)69:1<58::AID-JCTB660>3.0.CO;2-H

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Clesceri LS, Greenberg AE, Eaton AD (1998) Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater, 20th edn. American Public Health Association/ American Water Works Association/ Water Environment Federation, Washington DC, USA

    Google Scholar 

  • Dancwerts PV (1953) Continuous flow systems. Distribution of residence times. Chem Eng Sci 2:1–13. doi:10.1016/0009-2509(53)80001-1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dochain D, Vanrolleghem P (2001) Dynamic modeling and estimation in wastewater treatment process. IWA Publishing, London, UK, p 342

    Google Scholar 

  • Eckenfelder W (2000) Industrial water pollution control. Environmental engineering series, 3rd edn. McGraw Hill, Boston

    Google Scholar 

  • Humphries AC, Nott KP, Hall LD, Macaskie LE (2005) Reduction of Cr(VI) by Immobilized Cells of Desulfovibrio vulgaris NCIMB 8303 and Microbacterium sp. NCIMB 13776. Biotechnol Bioeng 90(5):597–605. doi:10.1002/bit.20450

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kawaguti HY, Manrich E, Sato HH (2006) Production of isomaltulose using Erwinia sp. D12 cells: culture medium optimization and cell immobilization in alginate. Biochem Eng J 29:270–277. doi:10.1016/j.bej.2006.01.006

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Levenspiel O (1999) Chemical reaction engineering, 3rd edn. Wiley, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Parameswarappa S, Karigar C, Nagenahalli M (2008) Degradation of ethylbenzene by free and immobilized Pseudomonas fluorescens-CS2. Biodegradation 19:137–144

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Park D-H, Chab J-M, Ryua H-W, Lee G-W, Yu E-Y, Rheea J-I, Park J-J, Kimd S-W, Lee I-W, Joe Y-I, Ryu Y-W, Hur B-K, Park J-K, Park K (2002) Hydrogen sulfide removal utilizing immobilized Thiobacillus sp. IW with Ca-alginate bead. Biochem Eng J 11:167–173. doi:10.1016/S1369-703X(02)00021-9

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Ramalho R (ed) (1999) Wastewater treatment. Rverté, Barcelona, Spain

    Google Scholar 

  • Sakurai A, Sakakibara M (1999) Short communication of 4, 5-dihydroxyphthalate by Pseudomonas testosteroni immobilized in alginate gel. Biochem Eng J 3:235–238. doi:10.1016/S1369-703X(99)00008-X

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Tanaka H, Irie S (1988) Preparation of stable alginate gel beads in electrolyte solutions using Ba2 and Sr2. Biotechnol Tech 2:115–120. doi:10.1007/BF01876161

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Uludag H, de Vos P, Tresco PA (2000) Technology of mammalian cell encapsulation. Adv Drug Deliv Rev 42:29–64. doi:10.1016/S0169-409X(00)00053-3

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Wu S-Y, Lin C-N, Chang J-S (2003) Hydrogen production with immobilized sewage sludge in three-phase fluidized-bed bioreactors. Biotechnol Prog 19:828–832. doi:10.1021/bp0201354

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors would like to express our gratitude to CONACyT, Mexico, for the financial support given to accomplish this study.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to A. Martinez D. Sergio.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Sergio, A.M.D., Bustos, T.Y. Biodegradation of wastewater pollutants by activated sludge encapsulated inside calcium-alginate beads in a tubular packed bed reactor. Biodegradation 20, 709–715 (2009).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: