The ammonium adsorption properties of aerobic granular sludge, activated sludge and anammox granules have been investigated. During operation of a pilot-scale aerobic granular sludge reactor, a positive relation between the influent ammonium concentration and the ammonium adsorbed was observed. Aerobic granular sludge exhibited much higher adsorption capacity compared to activated sludge and anammox granules. At an equilibrium ammonium concentration of 30 mg N/L, adsorption obtained with activated sludge and anammox granules was around 0.2 mg NH4-N/g VSS, while aerobic granular sludge from lab- and pilot-scale exhibited an adsorption of 1.7 and 0.9 mg NH4-N/g VSS, respectively. No difference in the ammonium adsorption was observed in lab-scale reactors operated at different temperatures (20 and 30 °C). In a lab-scale reactor fed with saline wastewater, we observed that the amount of ammonium adsorbed considerably decreased when the salt concentration increased. The results indicate that adsorption or better ion exchange of ammonium should be incorporated into models for nitrification/denitrification, certainly when aerobic granular sludge is used.
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