The anaerobic filter was developed by Yong and McCarty in the late 1960s. It is typically operated like a fixed-bed reactor , where growth-supporting media in the anaerobic filter contacts wastewater. Anaerobic microorganisms grow on the supporting media surfaces and void spaces in the media particles. There are two variations of the anaerobic filters: upflow and downflow modes. The media entraps SS present in wastewater coming from either the top (downflow filter) or the bottom (upflow filter). Part of the effluent is recycled and the magnitude of the recycle stream determines whether the reactor is plug-flow or completely mixed. To prevent bed clogging and high head loss problems, backwashing of the filter must be periodically performed to remove biological and inert solids trapped in the media . Turbulent fluid motion that accompanies the rapid rise of the gas bubbles through the reactor can be helpful to remove solids in the media .
Siino et al.  used an anaerobic filter to treat soluble carbohydrate waste (soft drink wastewater). At an HRT of 1.7 days, organic loading of 44-210 lb. COD/1000 ft3/day, and SRT of 137 days, removal of 85-90% of COD ranging from 1200 to 6000 mg/L can be achieved. The percentage of methane ranged from 60 to 80%; its product was 0.130.68 ft3/ day. COD removal efficiency (E%) can be estimated by the following equation: E=93 (1-1.99/HRT)
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