Main content area

Excess sludge and herbaceous plant co-digestion for volatile fatty acids generation improved by protein and cellulose conversion enhancement

Zhang, Dong, Fu, Xiang, Jia, Shuting, Dai, Lingling, Wu, Bing, Dai, Xiaohu
Environmental science and pollution research international 2016 v.23 no.2 pp. 1492-1504
Festuca arundinacea, Firmicutes, acidification, anaerobic digestion, biogas, carbon nitrogen ratio, cellulose, chemical oxygen demand, enzyme activity, enzymes, fermentation, hemicellulose, herbaceous plants, hydrolysis, lignin, models, nutrient utilization, protein content, sludge, total solids, volatile fatty acids
Volatile fatty acids (VFA), the substrate for the bio-methane yield, can be generated from excess sludge or herbaceous plant waste during the anaerobic fermentation process. However, due to the high protein content and the low carbon-to-nitrogen (C/N) ratio of excess sludge, the nutrient utilization of excess sludge to generate VFA and bio-methane usually becomes inefficient and uneconomical. In this study, the laboratory findings showed that both the organic conversion and VFA generation from the mixture of excess sludge and herbaceous plant waste (e.g., the tall fescue was used as model), could be significantly enhanced, especially when the C/N ratio was adjusted to 20/1. In order to get more VFA and bio-methane generation, the effects of different thermal pretreatment strategies on the excess sludge and tall fescue co-fermentation were investigated. The study of thermal pretreatment revealed that the maximal VFA generation (585.2 g COD/kg of total solids (TS)) from the mixture of sludge and tall fescue by thermal pretreatment at 100 °C was almost 9.9 and 4.1 times higher than un-pretreated sole sludge and tall fescue, respectively. Then the mechanism of enhanced VFA generation from the mixture by thermal pretreatment was investigated. It was observed that pretreating the mixture of excess sludge and tall fescue at 100 °C caused the greatest hydrolysis and acidification. The produced VFA was applied to generate the bio-methane, and it was showed that the bio-methane produced from the thermal-pretreated (100 °C) mixture was almost 9.6 and 4.9 times as high as un-pretreated sole sludge and tall fescue, respectively. In addition, the detection of enzyme activities showed that the main enzymes related to cellulose, hemicelluloses, lignin degradation, and acid forming were more active when VFA was produced from the thermal-pretreated (100 °C) mixture than other cases. Class Bacteroidia, class β-Proteobateria, α-Proteobateria, and phylum Firmicutes of the reactor with 100 °C pretreated mixture were more active than that of the reactor with un-pretreated sludge.