Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Distribution and change of microbial activity in combined UASB and AFB reactors for wastewater treatment


A thermophilic upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor was combined with a mesophilic aerobic fluidized bed (AFB) reactor for treatment of a medium strength wastewater with 2,700 mg COD l−1. The COD removal efficiency reached 75% with a removal rate of 0.2 g COD l−1 h−1 at an overall hydraulic retention time 14 hours. The distribution of microbial activity and its change with hydraulic retention time in the two reactors were investigated by measuring ATP concentration in the reactors and specific ATP content of the biomass. In the UASB reactor, the difference in specific ATP was significant between the sludge bed and blanket solution (0.02 mg ATP g VS−1 versus 0.85 mg ATP g VS−1) even though the ATP concentrations in these two zones were similar. A great pH gradient up to 4 was developed along the UASB reactor. Since a high ATP or biological activity in the blanket solution could only be maintained in a narrow pH range from 6.5 to 7.5, the sludge granules showed a high pH tolerance and buffering capacity up to pH 11. The suspended biomass in AFB reactor had a higher specific ATP than the biomass fixed in polyurethane carriers (1.6 mg ATP g VS−1 versus 1.1 mg ATP g VS−1), which implies a starvation status of the immobilized cells due to mass transfer limitation. The aerobes had to work under starvation conditions in this polishing reactor. The anaerobic biomass brought into AFB reactor contributed to an increase in suspended solids, but not the COD removal because of its fast deactivation under aerobic conditions. A second order kinetic model was proposed for ATP decline of the anaerobes. The results on distribution of microbial activity in the two reactors as well as its change with hydraulic retention time lead to further performance improvement of the combined anaerobic/aerobic reactor system.

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

Author information

Additional information

Received: 23 March 1999

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Yu, J., Chen, H., Ji, M. et al. Distribution and change of microbial activity in combined UASB and AFB reactors for wastewater treatment. Bioprocess Engineering 22, 315–322 (2000).

Download citation


  • Hydraulic Retention Time
  • Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket
  • Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket Reactor
  • Sludge Granule
  • Anaerobic Biomass