Lead Biosorption by Self-Immobilized Rhizopus nigricans Pellets in a Laboratory Scale Packed Bed Column: Mathematical Model and Experiment

Adela Kogej, Blaž Likozar and Aleksander Pavko*

Chair of Chemical, Biochemical and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology, University of Ljubljana, Aškerčeva cesta 5, SI-1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia

Article history:

Received December 8, 2009
Accepted April 28, 2010

Key words:

biosorption, lead, packed bed column, mathematical model, Rhizopus nigricans


The biosorption of lead ions from aqueous solution on a self-immobilized Rhizopus nigricans biomass has been studied. Experiments were performed in a laboratory scale packed bed column at different liquid flow rates and biosorbent bed heights. Recorded experimental breakthrough curves were compared to those predicted by a mathematical model, which was developed to simulate a packed bed biosorption process by a soft, self-immobilized fungal biosorbent. In the range of examined experimental conditions, the biomass characteristics such as pellet porosity and biosorption capacity substantially affected the predicted response curve. General correlations for the estimation of the intra-pellet effective diffusivity, the external mass transfer coefficient, as well as axial dispersion were successfully applied in this biological system with specific mechanical properties. Under the experimental conditions, mass transfer is controlled by the external film resistance, while the intra-pellet mass transfer resistance, as well as the effect of axial dispersion, can be neglected. A new parameter α, the fraction of active biomass, with an average value of α=0.7, was introduced to take into account the specific biomass characteristics, and consequently the observed non-ideal liquid flow through the bed of fungal pellets.


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