The role of pH in the organic material solubilization of domestic sludge in anaerobic digestion

Gomec, C. Yangin; Speece, R. E.
August 2003
Water Science & Technology;2003, Vol. 48 Issue 3, p143
The effect of pH on anaerobic solubilization of domestic primary sludge and activated sludge was investigated and compared. Anaerobic solubilization was carried out in continuously stirred anaerobic reactors at mesophilic temperature (35°C) and pH was fixed at 6.5 (pH-controlled). Many researches reported the serious effects of pH on the solubilization of organic materials. Thus, the aim of pH control in the reactors consisting of domestic primary and activated sludges, was the evaluation of retardation in hydrolysis/acidogenesis at low pH values. Since primary and activated sludges have different biodegradation characteristics, results were compared. Results indicated that the destruction of Total Suspended Solids (TSS) and Volatile Suspended Solids (VSS) were better in the pH-controlled reactors. In both sludges, acetic acid was the main Volatile Fatty Acid (VFA) produced. In the pH-controlled reactors, VSS reduction was found to be 72% in about 20 days in the anaerobic digestion of activated sludge, whereas for the same interval VSS reduction could only be achieved by 32% in primary sludge at 35°C. When primary sludge was used as substrate, the pH-uncontrolled and the pH-controlled reactors removed VSS with a corresponding production of VFAs and Soluble Chemical Oxygen Demand (SCOD). However, production of VFAs and SCOD was ceased after 5 days in the pH-controlled reactor whereas VFAs and SCOD production continued after 5 days in the pH-uncontrolled reactor, which indicated that hydrolysis and fermentation did not complete and continued longer. On the other hand; in either the pH-uncontrolled or the pH-controlled reactor of activated sludge, VSS was not removed with a corresponding production of VFAs and Soluble Chemical Oxygen Demand (SCOD). It was apparent that solubilization was occurring, however this solubilization was not observed as VFA production. When total methane production and total COD (CODtot) removal were estimated using VSS removal in both types of sludges, results indicated that pH control enhanced biogas productions as well as CODtot removals.


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