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Effects of anaerobic digestion enhanced by ultrasound pretreatment on the fuel properties of municipal sludge

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2020-05-01
In this study, effects of ultrasound pretreatment on combustion characteristics and elemental composition of municipal sludge were examined for energy-based evaluation of sludge pretreatment. Waste activated sludge (WAS) from a municipal wastewater treatment plant was pretreated with ultrasound at varying durations and was subjected to anaerobic digestion in a biochemical methane potential (BMP) assay. Changes in gas production rates, calorific value (CV), elemental compositions, and ash contents of sludge samples were examined to assess the effects of pretreatment and digestion. Sonication at 0.73 W/mL enhanced gas production by 28%. Moreover, volatile solids (VS) and chemical oxygen demand (COD) removals increased from 41 to 45% and 33 to 37%, respectively. Following anaerobic digestion, CVs of samples decreased by about 18%. Sonicated samples exhibited a higher decrease. In order to quantify the change in overall energy content, total solids (TS) reduction was also taken into account. Loss was magnified as both CV and the amount of TS that would provide the overall energy were reduced. This loss was 38% for the control group and 41% for the 15 min sonicated sludge. Digestion decreased the C content of sludge by about 20% and H content by 50% due to biogas production. Ash content increased relatively as some of the combustible solids were lost due to digestion. Experimental results indicate that if sludge is to be combusted, digestion with or without ultrasound pretreatment may be disadvantageous if the aim is to maximize energy gain from sludge.