Biofilm Growth-Percolation Models and Channeling in Biofilter Clogging
Biomass accumulation is a load-limiting factor in the operation of biofilters used for air pollution control. As the biofilm thickens, portions at the base are no longer exposed to contaminants and oxygen and, thus, provide no treatment. Smaller pores are filled with biomass so that air no longer flows into them. As airflow paths are restricted, air may be prevented from reaching some pores even before they are filled. Eventually blockage becomes sufficiently widespread so that increasing head loss and decreasing removal efficiency require that the system be shut down optimization of biofilter design requires a better understanding of the mechanisms by which biofilters clog. In this work, a numerical percolation model of the blockage process was developed for application to biofilters. It allows comparison of pore blockage histories for various pore size distributions and predicts biomass accumulation, head loss, and treatment efficiency as a function of time, as well as total time, until blockage prevents further operation. Although the model was reasonably accurate in predicting the time before complete clogging, it underestimated intermediate values of head loss. Observations of a clogged biofilter suggest that this occurs because clogging later in the process is nonuniform at scales that are large in comparison with individual pores.