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Investigating Activated Sludge Flocs using Microanalytical Techniques: Demonstration of Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy and Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry for Wastewater Applications

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Environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM) with an energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometer (EDS) and time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) were demonstrated to be useful analytical tools for investigating surface and bulk components of individual floc particles from both full- and bench-scale activated sludge systems. Detailed surface imaging of various hydrated biological floc particles by ESEM revealed substantial differences in surface features between treatment systems, while EDS identified spatial differences in the iron and the aluminum distributions. The ToF-SIMS spectra had signature fragments of protein and polysaccharide material from the floc surface, suggesting that this technique is capable of surface profiling extracellular polymeric substances. Principal-component analysis of the positive ion ToF-SIMS spectra from the mixed-liquor-suspended solid (MLSS) samples and reference aquatic organic materials found slight differences between the full- and bench-scale MLSS surface properties but substantial differences among MLSS and treated effluent from the same facility.
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Keywords: activated sludge; characterization; environmental scanning electron microscopy; imaging; microanalysis; principal-component analysis; time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-04-01

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  • Water Environment Research (WER) is published monthly, including an annual Literature Review. A subscription to WER includes access to the latest content back to 1992, as well as access to fast track articles. An individual subscription is valid for 12 months from month of purchase.

    Water Environment Research (WER) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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