Inhibition of anaerobic digestion process: a review

Bioresour Technol. 2008 Jul;99(10):4044-64. doi: 10.1016/j.biortech.2007.01.057. Epub 2007 Mar 30.


Anaerobic digestion is an attractive waste treatment practice in which both pollution control and energy recovery can be achieved. Many agricultural and industrial wastes are ideal candidates for anaerobic digestion because they contain high levels of easily biodegradable materials. Problems such as low methane yield and process instability are often encountered in anaerobic digestion, preventing this technique from being widely applied. A wide variety of inhibitory substances are the primary cause of anaerobic digester upset or failure since they are present in substantial concentrations in wastes. Considerable research efforts have been made to identify the mechanism and the controlling factors of inhibition. This review provides a detailed summary of the research conducted on the inhibition of anaerobic processes. The inhibitors commonly present in anaerobic digesters include ammonia, sulfide, light metal ions, heavy metals, and organics. Due to the difference in anaerobic inocula, waste composition, and experimental methods and conditions, literature results on inhibition caused by specific toxicants vary widely. Co-digestion with other waste, adaptation of microorganisms to inhibitory substances, and incorporation of methods to remove or counteract toxicants before anaerobic digestion can significantly improve the waste treatment efficiency.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Anaerobiosis*
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Bioreactors*
  • Biotechnology / methods*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Industrial Waste
  • Metals, Heavy / chemistry
  • Methane
  • Models, Chemical
  • Sewage
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid
  • Waste Management


  • Industrial Waste
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Sewage
  • Methane