Reviews in Environmental Science and Bio/Technology

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 395–424 | Cite as

Monitoring biological wastewater treatment processes: recent advances in spectroscopy applications

  • Daniela P. Mesquita
  • Cristina Quintelas
  • A. Luís Amaral
  • Eugénio C. Ferreira
review paper


Biological processes based on aerobic and anaerobic technologies have been continuously developed to wastewater treatment and are currently routinely employed to reduce the contaminants discharge levels in the environment. However, most methodologies commonly applied for monitoring key parameters are labor intensive, time-consuming and just provide a snapshot of the process. Thus, spectroscopy applications in biological processes are, nowadays, considered a rapid and effective alternative technology for real-time monitoring though still lacking implementation in full-scale plants. In this review, the application of spectroscopic techniques to aerobic and anaerobic systems is addressed focusing on UV–Vis, infrared, and fluorescence spectroscopy. Furthermore, chemometric techniques, valuable tools to extract the relevant data, are also referred. To that effect, a detailed analysis is performed for aerobic and anaerobic systems to summarize the findings that have been obtained since 2000. Future prospects for the application of spectroscopic techniques in biological wastewater treatment processes are further discussed.


Wastewater treatment Ultraviolet–visible spectroscopy Infrared spectroscopy Fluorescence spectroscopy 



Three-dimensional excitation-emission matrix


Anaerobic digestion


Aerobic granular sludge


Alginate-like exopolysaccharides


Automatic methane potential test system II


Anaerobic dynamic membrane bioreactor


Artificial neural networks


Bicarbonate alkalinity


Biochemical methane potential


Biochemical oxygen demand


Cluster analysis


Conventional activated sludge


Colored natural organic matter


Chemical oxygen demand


Dissolved chemical oxygen demand


Dry matter


Dissolved organic carbon


Dissolved organic matter


Enhanced biological phosphorus removal




Ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid


Excitation-emission matrix


Extracellular polymeric substances




Flow injection analysis






Fluorescence regional integration




Fourier-transform infrared


Fourier transform near-infrared


Gas chromatography


Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry


Generalized discriminant analysis


Hydrogen sulfide


Bisulfide ion




Kernel partial least squares


Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry


Linear discriminant analysis


Locally weighted regression


Membrane bioreactors




Multi-layer partial least squares


Mixed liquor volatile suspended solids


Mixed microbial cultures


Moving window partial least squares


Ammonia nitrogen




Nuclear magnetic resonance


Nonlinear principal components regression


Organic loading rate


Organic matter


Parallel factor analysis


Principal component analysis






Partial least squares


Random forest


Relevance vector machines


Sequencing batch reactor




Support vector machines


Short-wave near-infrared


Step-wise regression


Total carbon


Total inorganic carbon


Total Kjeldahl nitrogen


Total organic carbon


Total solids


Total suspended solids






Volatile suspended solids


Waste activated sludge


Wastewater treatment


Wastewater treatment plants



The authors thank the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) under the scope of the strategic funding of UID/BIO/04469/2013 unit, COMPETE 2020 (POCI-01-0145-FEDER-006684) and the project RECI/BBB-EBI/0179/2012 (FCOMP-01-0124-FEDER-027462) and BioTecNorte operation (NORTE-01-0145-FEDER-000004) funded by the European Regional Development Fund under the scope of Norte2020—Programa Operacional Regional do Norte. The authors also acknowledge the financial support to Daniela P. Mesquita and Cristina Quintelas through the postdoctoral Grants (SFRH/BPD/82558/2011 and SFRH/BPD/101338/2014) provided by FCT—Portugal.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre of Biological Engineering (CEB)Universidade do MinhoBragaPortugal
  2. 2.Instituto Politécnico de Coimbra, ISEC, DEQBCoimbraPortugal

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