A photocatalytic continuous stirred tank reactor (CSTR) was built at laboratory scale to inactivate two environmental bacteria strains (Flavobacterium and E. coli) in tap water. Several parameters were found to impact reactor efficiency. Bacterial initial concentration is an important factor in inactivation rate. After 30 minutes of irradiation at 108–109 CFU mL−1 starting concentration, a >5 log reduction was achieved while at 104–106 CFU mL−1 only a 2 log reduction was observed. Water hardness and pH have an important influence on the photocatalytic inactivation process. Soft water, with low Ca+2 and Mg+2 at low pH ∼ 5.3 resulted in increased inactivation of Flavobacterium reaching >6 orders of magnitude reduction. E. coli and Flavobacterium at pH 5 were inactivated by 3 logs more as compared to pH 7 under similar conditions. pH below TiO2 isoelectric point (approximately 5.6) supports better contact between bacteria and anatase particles resulting in superior inactivation. TiO2 powder suspension was compared with immobilised powder in sol-gel coated glass beads in order to exclude the need for particles separation from the treated water. TiO2 suspension was more effective by 3 orders of magnitude when compared to coated glass beads. An interesting observation was found between the two bacterial strains based on their hydrophobicity/hydrophilicity balance. The more hydrophobic Flavobacterium compared to E. coli was inactivated photocatalytically by >3 logs more then E. coli in the first 30 minutes of irradiation interval. The results indicate the importance of the parameters involved in the contact between TiO2 particles and microorganisms that govern the succesful inactivation rate in CSTR.

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