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Synthesis of Polyhydroxyalkanoates in Municipal Wastewater Treatment

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Biologically derived polyesters known as polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) represent a potentially “sustainable” replacement to fossil-fuel-based thermoplastics. However, current commercial practices that produce PHA with pure microbial cultures grown on renewable, but refined, feedstocks (i.e., glucose) under sterile conditions do not represent a sustainable commodity. Here, we report on PHA production with a mixed microbial consortium indigenous to an activated sludge process on carbon present in municipal wastewaters. Reactors operated under anaerobic/aerobic and aerobic-only mode and fed primary solids fermenter liquor maintained a mixed microbial consortium capable of synthesizing PHA at 10 to 25% (w/w), while reducing soluble COD by approximately 62 to 71%. More critically, an aerobic batch reactor seeded from the anaerobic/aerobic reactor and fed fermenter liquor achieved approximately 53% PHA (w/w). Results presented suggest that environmentally benign production of biodegradable polymers is feasible. We further used PHA-rich biomass to produce a natural fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite that can be used to offset advanced wastewater treatment costs.
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Keywords: municipal wastewater treatment; natural fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composites; polyhydroxyalkanoates; polyhydroxybutyrate; polyhydroxyvalerate; primary solids fermenter liquor

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-11-01

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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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