Advances in wastewater nitrogen removal by biological processes: state of the art review

  • Andrea G. Capodaglio University of Pavia
  • Petr Hlavínek Brno University of Technology
  • Massimo Raboni University LIUC - Cattaneo
Keywords: biological processes, deammonification, denitrification, nitrogen removal.


The paper summarizes the state-of-the-art of the most recent advances in biological nitrogen removal, including process design criteria and technological innovations. With reference to the Modified Ludzck Ettinger (MLE) process (pre-denitrification and nitrification in the activated sludge process), the most common nitrogen removal process used nowadays, a new design equation for the denitrification reactor based on specific denitrification rate (SDNR) has been proposed. In addition, factors influencing SDNR (DO in the anoxic reactor; hydrodynamic behavior) are analyzed, and technological solutions are proposed. Concerning technological advances, the paper presents a summary of various “deammonification” processes, better known by their patent names like ANAMMOX®, DEMON®, CANON®, ANITA® and others. These processes have already found applications in the treatment of high-strength wastewater such as digested sludge liquor and landfill leachate. Among other emerging denitrification technologies, consideration is given to the Membrane Biofilm Reactors (MBfRs) that can be operated both in oxidation and reduction mode.

Author Biographies

Andrea G. Capodaglio, University of Pavia
Associate Professor in Sanitary Engineering. He also holds a position as Adjunct Professor at Marquette University of Milwaukee (USA) and a fellowship from the Research Institute of Waters (IRSA) of the Italian National Research Council. He graduated with honors in Civil Engineering-Hydraulics at the University of Pavia and defended his PhD at the Marquette University (Milwaukee, USA). His research interests deals with innovative technologies for water purification (membrane processes, microbial fuel cells), modeling systems and the environment (e.g. surface water and groundwater, air), risk assessment and environmental impact.
Petr Hlavínek, Brno University of Technology
Prof. Dr. Petr Hlavínek is a sanitary engineer with 30 years of professional experience in the field of wastewater collection and treatment. Professor Hlavinek lectures in wastewater collection and treatment at the Brno University of Technology. He has extensive supervisory experience, having supervised 14 PhDs to completion to date. He is a member of a number of professional organizations including the national committee of the International Water Association and Czech Wastewater Treatment Experts Association. Over the past 30 years, he has consulted with more than 300 municipalities in the Czech Rep. concerning sewerage and wastewater treatment. He is author of a number of papers in the field of wastewater collection and treatment. His experience also includes work as independent evaluator for the EC Directorate General Environment, as evaluating & monitoring agent for the Norwegian financial mechanism (environment sector), and as FIDIC engineer for ISPA and cohesion fund projects. Currently, he is director of EGAR (Environmental Geo Applied Research) research group at research center AdMaS (Advanced materials and Structures) at Brno University of Technology and has experience with many trans-national & EU-funded research projects, FP5 projects CARE-S & AQUAREC and FP6 projects AMEDEUS & MBR-train.
Massimo Raboni, University LIUC - Cattaneo
He earned his Master degree in Environmental Engineering in 2006 at the University of Pavia (Italy). In July 2010 he defended his PhD thesis in Civil Engineering on the “Numerical and experimental analysis of multiphysics phenomena” at the University of Pavia. The subjects dealt also with the analysis of two-phase flows and the oxygen mass transfer in activated sludge systems for wastewater treatment equipped with turbulent jets. Post-doc fellow at the: - Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering Department of the University of Pavia (Italy), where he deepened the issues studied during the PhD programme (2010-2011); - Science and High Technology Department of the University of Insubria (Varese, Italy), where he worked in the field of the environmental and safety management of hazardous materials transport (2011-2013); - Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering Department of the Politecnico di Milano (Italy), where he contributed to the study of an electrocoagulation process for the removal of phosphates and arsenic from both freshwater and wastewater (January-September, 2014). Since October, 2014 he is Assistant Professor at the University Cattaneo - LIUC (Castellanza, Italy) and coordinator of the didactic activities regarding the topic of the environment and safety. Teaching assistant since 2006 in various courses (i.e. hydraulics, fluid mechanics, applied ecology, environmental impact assessment, occupational health and safety, relevant accidents and risk analysis), he is now teacher of “Management of environment and safety in the industry” in the M.Sc course of Industrial Engineering at University Cattaneo - LIUC. During the period 2006-2008 he was also member of an Italo-Brazilian research team working on the development of the river Pojuca basin management plan (Bahia, Brazil) as water quality modelling expert. Main research topics: occupational health and safety; hazardous materials transport; water and air quality modelling; CFD; biological treatment of gaseous effluents; wastewater treatment.