Biofiltration Combined with Non-Thermal Plasma for Air Pollution Control: a Preliminary Investigation

Biofiltration Combined with Non-Thermal Plasma for Air Pollution Control: a Preliminary Investigation

M. Schiavon M. Schiorlin  V. Torretta  M. Ragazzi  E.C. Rada 

Department of Civil, Environmental and Mechanical Engineering, University of Trento, Italy

Leibniz Institute for Plasma Science and Technology (INP Greifswald), Germany

Department of Biotechnologies and Life Sciences, University of Insubria, Italy

31 August 2016
| Citation



Biological technologies have been often employed to remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at low concentrations from air streams. However, biodegradation is very sensitive to variations of inlet concentrations and flow rate that usually occurs in real industrial processes; furthermore, an acclimation period is required by microorganisms to adapt to new conditions of flow rate and concentration. A possible solution to overcome these issues is represented by a pre-treatment with non-thermal plasma (NTP). The synergy between an NTP reactor and a biofilter in removing a mixture of VOCs from air is the object of this paper. A mixture of five VOCs (benzene, ethylbenzene, p-xylene, n-heptane and toluene) and humid air was chosen to represent the gaseous effluent stripped from an industrial wastewater treatment plant. A sudden increase in the VOC concentrations was intentionally induced to understand if NTP can manage peaks of the inlet concentration of pollutants and help the biodegradation carried out in the biofilter. NTP revealed to be capable of both pre-treating concentrations peaks and converting the initial VOCs in more soluble compounds; in conclusion, NTP is able to help biodegradation, allows controlling unsteady conditions and prevents stress to bacteria.


air pollution control, biofilter, catalysis, industrial wastewater, volatile organic compounds


[1] Jakobi, N., Husbands, P. & Harvey, I., Noise and the reality gap: The use of simulation in evolutionary robotics. Proceeding of the Third European Conference on Artificial Life, Springer-Verlag: London, UK, pp. 704–720, 1995.

[2] Nolfi, S. & Floreano, D., Evolutionary Robotics. MIT Press: Cambridge MA & London, p. 384, 2000.

[3] Varela, G., Caamaño, P., Orjales, F., Deibe, A., López Peña, F. & Duro, R.J., Autonomous UAV based search operations using constrained sampling evolutionary algorithms. Neurocomputing, 132, pp. 54–67, 2014.

[4] Perry, A.R., FlightGear flight simulator, available at

[5] Briggs, G.A., Diffusion estimation for small emissions. Technical report, air resources atmospheric turbulence and diffusion laboratory, NOAA, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA, 1974.

[6] Pasquill, F., The estimation of the dispersion of windborne material. The Meteorological Magazine, 90(1063), pp. 33–49. 1961.

[7] Varela, G., Caamano, P., Orjales, F., Deibe, A., Lopez-Pena, F. & Duro, R.J., Differential evolution in constrained sampling problems. Proceeding 2014 IEEE Congress on Evolutionary Computation (CEC), Piscataway, N.J., pp. 2375–2382, 2014.

[8] Storn, R. & Price, K., Differential evolution–a simple and efficient heuristic for global optimization over continuous spaces. Journal of Global Optimization, 11(4), pp. 341–359, 1997.

[9] Caamaño, P., Bellas, F., Becerra, J.A. & Duro, R.J., Evolutionary algorithm characterization in real parameter optimization problems. Applied Soft Computing, 13(4), pp. 1902–1921, 2013.