Author(s): Kim M, Ahn YH, Speece RE
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Abstract The comparative process stability and efficiency of mesophilic (35 degrees C) and thermophilic anaerobic digestion (55 degrees C) has been evaluated for four different reactor configurations, which are: daily batch-fed single-stage continuously stirred tank reactor (CSTR), continuously fed single-stage CSTR, daily batch-fed two-phase CSTR, and daily batch-fed non-mixed single-stage reactor. The results are discussed for three periods: (1) start-up, (2) steady state, and (3) organic loading rate (OLR) increase until reactor failure (pH below 5.5). During the start-up, the single-stage CSTRs at both temperatures showed the least stability, while the non-mixed single-stage reactors reached steady state in the shortest time with relatively stable pH and low volatile fatty acid (VFA). In the case of the thermophilic non-mixed reactor, efficient removal of propionate occurred but supplementation of nutrients (Ca, Fe, Ni, and Co) was required when VFA increased. The results imply the importance of inorganic nutrients bioavailability. The comparative results of the reactor performance at steady state clearly showed the superior performance of the thermophilic non-mixed reactor with respect to lower VFA, higher gas production and volatile solids removal implying that microbial consortia proximity can alleviate the problem of poor effluent quality in thermophilic system. During the OLR increase until reactor failure, all thermophilic reactors except the thermophilic non-mixed reactor showed increases in propionate concentrations as the OLR increased, while all mesophilic reactors except the mesophilic two-phase system showed little increase in VFA concentrations. When all reactors had the same conditions with OLR increase, the continuously fed reactors showed the lowest gas production, while the non-mixed reactors showed the highest gas production at both temperatures. It is hypothesized that the non-mixing reactor configuration has closer microbial consortia proximity than others. Therefore, the results in this study indicated the importance of microbial consortia proximity. A proposed model for the effect of the distance between two syntrophic bacteria reasonably matched the data in this study.
This article was published in Water Res
and referenced in Journal of Bioprocessing & Biotechniques