Biotreatment of oily wastewater by rhamnolipids in aerated active sludge system

  • Hong-zi Zhang
  • Xu-wei Long
  • Ru-yi Sha
  • Guo-liang Zhang
  • Qin Meng


Oily wastewater generated by various industries creates a major ecological problem throughout the world. The traditional methods for the oily wastewater treatment are inefficient and costly. Surfactants can promote the biodegradation of petroleum hydrocarbons by dispersing oil into aqueous environment. In the present study, we applied rhamnolipid-containing cell-free culture broth to enhance the biodegradation of crude oil and lubricating oil in a conventional aerobically-activated sludge system. At 20 °C, rhamnolipids (11.2 mg/L) increased the removal efficiency of crude oil from 17.7% (in the absence of rhamnolipids) to 63%. At 25 °C, the removal efficiency of crude oil was over 80% with the presence of rhamnolipids compared with 22.3% in the absence of rhamnolipids. Similarly, rhamnolipid treatment (22.5 mg/L) for 24 h at 20 °C significantly increased the removal rate of lubricating oil to 92% compared with 24% in the absence of rhamnolipids. The enhanced removal of hydrocarbons was mainly attributed to the improved solubility and the reduced interfacial tension by rhamnolipids. We conclude that a direct application of the crude rhamnolipid solution from cell culture is effective and economic in removing oily contaminants from wastewater.

Key words

Oily wastewater Rhamnolipid Aerated active sludge system Biodegradation 

CLC number



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Copyright information

© Zhejiang University and Springer Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hong-zi Zhang
    • 1
  • Xu-wei Long
    • 1
  • Ru-yi Sha
    • 1
  • Guo-liang Zhang
    • 2
  • Qin Meng
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Chemical Engineering and Biochemical EngineeringZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Engineering and Biochemical EngineeringZhejiang University of TechnologyHangzhouChina

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