Biosorption of Cu(II) ions onto pre-treated powdered waste sludge (PWS) was investigated using a fed-batch operated completely mixed reactor. Fed-batch adsorption experiments were performed by varying the feed flow rate (0.075-0.3251 h(-1)), feed copper (II) ion concentrations (50-300 mg l(-1)) and the amount of adsorbent (1-6 g PWS) using fed-batch operation. Breakthrough curves describing the variations of effluent copper ion concentrations with time were determined for different operating conditions. Percent copper ion removals from the aqueous phase decreased, but the biosorbed (solid phase) copper ion concentrations increased with increasing the feed flow rate and Cu(II) concentration. A modified Bohart-Adams equation was used to determine the biosorption capacity of PWS and the rate constant for Cu(II) ion biosorption. Adsorption rate constant in fed-batch operation was an order of magnitude larger than those obtained in adsorption columns because of elimination of mass transfer limitations encountered in the column operations while the biosorption capacity of PWS was comparable with powdered activated (PAC) in column operations. Therefore, a completely mixed reactor operated in fed-batch mode was proven to be more advantageous as compared to adsorption columns due to better contact between the phases yielding faster adsorption rates. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.