Removal of hydrogen sulfide by sulfate-resistant Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans AZ11

Eun Young Lee, Nae Yoon Lee, Kyung Suk Cho, Hee Wook Ryu

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108 Scopus citations


Toxic H2S gas is an important industrial pollutant that is applied to biofiltration. Here, we examined the effects of factors such as inlet concentration and space velocity on the removal efficiency of a bacterial strain capable of tolerating high sulfate concentrations and low pH conditions. We examined three strains of Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans known to have sulfur-oxidizing activity, and identified strain AZ11 as having the highest tolerance for sulfate. A. thiooxidans AZ11 could grow at pH 0.2 in the presence of 74 g l-1 sulfate, the final oxidation product of elemental sulfur, in the culture broth. Under these conditions, the specific sulfur oxidation rate was 2.9 g-S g-DCW (dry cell weight)-1 d-1. The maximum specific sulfur oxidation rate of A. thiooxidans AZ11 was 21.2 g-S g-DCW-1 d-1, which was observed in the presence of 4.2 g-SO42- l-1 and pH 1.5, in the culture medium. To test the effects of various factors on biofiltration by this strain, A. thiooxidans AZ11 was inoculated into a porous ceramic biofilter. First, a maximum inlet loading of 670 g-S m-3 h-1 was applied with a constant space velocity (SV) of 200 h-1 (residence time, 18 s) and the inlet concentration of H2S was experimentally increased from 200 ppmv to 2200 ppmv. Under these conditions, less than 0.1 ppmv H2S was detected at the biofilter outlet. When the inlet H2S was maintained at a constant concentration of 200 ppmv and the SV was increased from 200 h-1 to 400 h-1 (residence time, 9 s), an H2S removal of 99.9% was obtained. However, H2S removal efficiencies decreased to 98% and 94% when the SV was set to 500 h-1 (residence time, 7.2 s) and 600 h-1 (residence time, 6 s), respectively. The critical elimination capacity guaranteeing 96% removal of the inlet H2S was determined to be 160 g-S m-3 h-1 at a space velocity of 600 h-1. Collectively, these findings show for the first time that a sulfur oxidizing bacterium has a high sulfate tolerance and a high sulfur oxidizing activity below pH 1.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-314
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Bioscience and Bioengineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was financially supported by the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation through the Advanced Environmental Biotechnology Research Center at Pohang University of Science and Technology (R11-2003-006).


  • Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans
  • biofilter
  • hydrogen sulfide
  • sulfate tolerance


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