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Impact of molecular structure and charge property of chitosan based polymers on flocculation conditioning of advanced anaerobically digested sludge for dewaterability improvement

Zhang, Weijun, Wang, Huidi, Li, Liqing, Li, Dandan, Wang, Qiandi, Xu, Qiongying, Wang, Dongsheng
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.670 pp. 98-109
adsorption, anaerobic digestion, biodegradability, carboxylation, chitosan, confocal laser scanning microscopy, dewatering, filtration, flocculants, flocculation, land application, moieties, neutralization, polymers, scanning electron microscopes, scanning electron microscopy, sludge, water solubility
Anaerobically digested sludge is generally difficult to dewater due to the release of sticky soluble microbial products in anaerobic digestion. Traditional flocculation processes have the disadvantages of high chemical dosing and solid increase, thus affecting subsequent land application. Therefore, it is desirable to develop low-cost, biodegradable, nontoxic and environmentally friendly sludge conditioners. In this work, the chitosan (CTS) was chemically modified by incorporating functional groups (amino group and the carboxyl group) to improve its water solubility and flocculation efficiency, and the anaerobically digested sludge conditioning effectiveness of different chitosan based flocculants were comparatively investigated. Results indicated that aminated chitosan (CTS-DMDAAC) and CTS performed well in sludge dewatering improvement in terms of specific resistance to filtration (SRF) and Capillary suction time (CST), which decreased to a minimum when the concentration of conditioner reached to 35 mg/g TSS. Flocs conditioned by CTS-DMDAAC were more compact and aggregated more efficiently than that flocculated with CTS and C-CTS (carboxylated chitosan). CTS-DMDAAC and CTS interacted with extracellular polymeric substance (EPS) by charge neutralization and complexation adsorption, which caused the densification of gel-like structure and enhancement of floc strength of sludge. Scanning electron microscope (SEM) analysis showed that after CTS-DMDAAC treatment, there were plentiful large pores distributed on floc surface, which provided channels for water release under pressure filtration. Confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) confirmed that protein-like substances were agglomerated under flocculation conditioning, which was responsible for the promotion of sludge dewatering performance. This study provides a green and promising solution for the improvement of anaerobically digested sludge dewatering performance.