Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor (MBBR) processes improve reliability, simplify operation, and require less space than traditional wastewater treatment systems.

MBBR technology employs thousands of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) biofilm carriers operating in mixed motion within an aerated wastewater treatment basin. Each individual biofilm carrier increases productivity by providing a protected surface area to support the growth of heterotrophic and autotrophic bacteria within its apertures. It is this high-density population of bacteria that achieves high-rate biodegradation within the system, while also offering process reliability and ease of operation.

This technology provides cost-effective treatment with minimal maintenance since MBBR processes self-maintain an optimum level of productive biofilm. Additionally, the biofilm attached to the mobile biocarriers within the system automatically responds to load fluctuations.


The Integrated Fixed-Film Activated Sludge (IFAS) process is typically installed as a retrofit solution for conventional activated sludge systems that are at or beyond design capacity. In addition, the IFAS technology can be used to convert a BOD-only municipal plant to a complete biological nutrient removal (BNR) plant without any additional reactors or new infrastructure.

IFAS upgrades offer an extremely cost-effective retrofit solution to municipal wastewater plant expansion, taking full advantage of existing systems, equipment, process knowledge, training, and operator skills. The technology is compatible with plug flow and complete mix configurations; IFAS hybrid processes are designed for complete compatibility with fine bubble aeration systems, providing demonstrated long-term operational cost savings.

The IFAS variation of the MBBR process gets its name from the integration of biofilm carrier technology within conventional activated sludge. This hybrid process (referred to as an integrated fixed-film activated sludge, or IFAS) enables activated sludge systems to achieve dramatic gains in volumetric productivity without increasing mixed liquor suspended solids (MLSS) levels (or even decreasing the MLSS, if the clarifiers are overloaded) in the process. By doing so, IFAS systems deliver improved performance while reducing the solids impact on clarification processes. As a result, clarification processes actually benefit from implementing IFAS technology.

Integration of fixed-film technologies and conventional activated sludge is not a ground-breaking approach in and of itself. Facilities over the years have implemented caged ropes, cord media, hanging fabric, and other failed methods to increase the density of nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria populations within activated sludge systems.

IFAS technology is the first process specifically designed for ideal operation in municipal wastewater treatment/activated sludge processes. The technology was initially developed by Environment Canada, an agency of the Government of Canada, through 1994-97 when multiple technologies were assessed for cost-effective municipal wastewater treatment upgrades. What resulted in MBBR biofilm carrier technology was determined by Environment Canada to be the definitive solution for IFAS activated sludge upgrades.

The IFAS process self-maintains with the ease of operation found with all MBBR processes. Polyethylene biofilm carriers, optimally designed for high MLSS operation found in typical activated sludge systems, move freely within mixed liquor, providing high-density activated bacteria populations for nitrification, denitrification, and phosphorus removal.


Cost-Effective, Short Payback Period Investment
IFAS offers a cost-effective means of upgrading municipal wastewater facilities; minimal plant downtime, zero facility construction, and optimization of existing equipment all result in demonstrated cost savings delivered to Headworks BIO customers.

Significant Performance Enhancement
Demonstrated operation and performance data verifies the significant improvements delivered via retrofit of conventional activated sludge processes with MBBR biofilm carrier technology.

Future-Proof Technology
As populations grow, industrial activities increase, or wastewater flows and concentrations change, IFAS technology has the unique capability to be expanded and upgraded to meet new demands. This future-proof capability enables Headworks BIO clients to ensure discharge compliance without significant capital investment or process adjustments in the future.

Enhanced Process Reliability
IFAS achieves increased process stability under conditions of variable mixed liquor, solids retention, and organic loading rates.

Intuitive Process Operation
Operators with experience maintaining conventional activated sludge systems find the operation of integrated fixed-film activated sludge processes highly intuitive. Headworks BIO’s Operator Training program covers all aspects of regular maintenance, service, and everyday operation on installation of the new process enhancements.

Reduced Clarifier Loading
By achieving a high-density population of fixed-film bacteria within the activated sludge process, mixed liquor (MLSS) levels are lower in relation to treatment productivity; clarifier performance is optimized by reducing the solids loading generated from the secondary biological process.

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Compact Design
A fraction of the size of conventional systems

Capacity can be easily upgraded by simply increasing the fill fraction of biofilm carriers

Single Pass Process
No return activated sludge stream required

Load Responsive
Actively sloughed biofilm automatically responds to load fluctuations

Minimal Maintenance
No F/M ratios or MLSS levels to maintain

MBBR processes are an excellent solution for common wastewater applications including:

  • BOD Reduction
  • Nitrification
  • Total Nitrogen Removal
  • Phosphorous Removal

Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor systems deliver a flexible, cost-effective, and easy-to-operate means to address current wastewater requirements and the expandability to meet future loads or more stringent discharge requirements within a compact design.

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    Lagoon MBBR Brochure
  • Refinery-MBBR-treatment-thumb
    Refinery MBBR Treatment Brochure
  • Selenium-Removal-MBBR-thumb
    Selenium Removal MBBR Brochure