Characteristics of and selection criteria for support materials for cell immobilization in wastewater treatment

Emily J.T.M. Leenen, Vítor A.P. Dos Santos, Katja C.F. Grolle, Johannes Tramper, René H. Wijffels*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

140 Citations (Scopus)


For treatment of wastewater with immobilized cells, support materials need to meet the following criteria: insoluble, not biodegradable, high mechanical stability, high diffusivity, simple immobilization procedure, high biomass retention, minimal attachment of other organisms and preferably a low cost price. In order to compare which support materials are the most suitable, characteristics of several natural and synthetic materials have been determined. For this, both literature and experimental data were used. The immobilization procedures of natural gel materials, like alginate and carrageenan, are mild and cells grow well in these supports. Furthermore, the effective diffusion coefficients of substrates are close to those in water. These supports, however, appeared to be soluble, biodegradable and liable to abrasion. Synthetic gels, on the contrary, have better mechanical properties, but mostly lower substrate diffusion coefficients. Immobilization conditions are less mild resulting in low biomass retention. For application of entrapped nitrifying cells in wastewater-treatment systems synthetic gels; however, are promising.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2985-2996
Number of pages12
JournalWater Research
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1996


  • Domestic wastewater
  • Immobilization
  • Mechanical stability
  • Nitrification
  • Selection criteria
  • Support material

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