Database of Waste Management Technologies Life



'Biofilter' is the generic term covering all biological oxidation processes taking place in a packed system. This includes conventional trickling filters, bioscrubbers (microbial population supported in scrubber liquor) or biobeds (packed system using soil, peat and bark).

The biofilter consists of an apparatus filled with decomposable material such as compost, bark or a mixture of turf and heather, etc. Micro-organisms (fungi, bacteria, viruses and algae) are resident on the material. The exhaust air flows through the material while the micro-organisms decompose the harmful substances. Water and airflow normally run countercurrently. A biofilter is not a filter in the mechanical sense (i.e. it does not lead to a separation of particles), but it is a reactor where a certain range of harmful substances are metabolised to harmless substances. The desired qualities of a biofilter are outlined in Table below.

Figure 1


Figure 2

Achieved environmental benefits

Reduces odour and VOC emissions from natural compounds and from the synthesis of inorganic compounds (e.g. H2S and NH3), aromatic and aliphatic compounds (e.g. acids, alcohols, hydrocarbons). Other compounds that may be degraded are non-chlorinated solvents, mercaptans, amines, amides, aldehydes and ketones. The treatment capacity ranges from 50 - 150 Nm3/h/m2 depending on the type of pollutant.

The removal efficiency of a biofilter is determined by the gas residence time in the media bed. Effective residence times typically range from 30 to 60 seconds for most aerobic digestion applications. Studies have reported high removal efficiencies for specific compounds such as H2S (>99 %), methyl mercaptan, dimethyl disulphide, dimethyl sulphide (>90 %) and various terpenes (>98 %).

Environmental benefits include low energy requirements and the avoidance of potential cross media transfer of pollutants. Measurements in the practical application of biofilters in physicochemical treatment plants have shown results of approx. 95 to 98 % degradation for organic solvents, with concentrations in exhaust air to be purified from 400 to 1600 mg/Nm3.

In biological treatment plants, malodorous gases will be fed through a scrubber (e.g. acidic wet scrubber), which reduces the ammonia content to an acceptable level for the biofilter. The biofilter removes odours and any remaining ammonia. The filtering process does not create any compounds that are harmful to the environment and after use, the filter can be treated by composting and additional waste will not be generated.

Biofilter efficiency in MBT gas treatment is show in the following table:

Figure 3