Adsorption is an important step during the migration of ammonium from the aqueous phase to biomass in biological nitrogen removal processes. A deeper understanding of the adsorption mechanisms is encouraged in constructing nitrogen conversion models. In this study, the ammonium adsorption in aerobic granular sludge was investigated at different conditions. Analysis of kinetic data indicated that ammonium adsorption was a fast process and followed pseudo-second-order kinetics (adsorption rate constant k2 was between 0.031 and 0.065 g/(mg · min)). The maximum adsorption capacity and half saturation constant KL in the Langmuir isotherm model were 4.95 mgNH4+-N/g total suspended solids and 0.0126 L/mg, respectively. Effects of environmental conditions such as temperature, pH and competitive cations were also estimated. The optimum pH was 7 and the effects of competitive cations were in the order Ca2+ > Mg2+ > K+ > Na+. Values of thermodynamic parameters (ΔHƟ = −14.697 kJ/mol, ΔSƟ = −6.65 J/(mol · K)) indicated that the adsorption process was spontaneous and exothermic. Desorption tests showed that the process was reversible and low temperature had a negative effect on ammonium desorption. These findings could be useful for completing the mathematical model of the nitrogen removal process in bioreactors.

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