The main objective of this study is to evaluate qualitatively and quantitatively the effect of starvation periods in the biodegradation capacity of microorganisms when the support media is a material with high sorption capacity. Pollutant sorption and biodegradation, which occur simultaneously in the biofilter, describe the overall behavior of the air treatment system during normal operation and during starvation periods. Results obtained in the present study demonstrate that sorption capacity of the material not only plays an important role during the start-up of operation, but it is also important during steady operation. Simultaneously, as biomass grows on the support, biodegradation becomes more decisive in the performance. It was found that zones of packing material with low moisture content are controlled by the sorption mechanism, at the expense of biodegradation, and they are essential as a pollutant reservoir during starvation periods. In the present study a significant decrease in the biodegradation capacity of microorganisms immobilized on activated carbon was not observed as a consequence of continuous load interruptions.

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