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Using a Pulsed Electric Field as a Pretreatment for Improved Biosolids Digestion and Methanogenesis

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Researchers tested using pulsed electric field (PEF) technology to enhance conversion of organic solids material in waste activated sludge (WAS) and pig manure to soluble and colloidal forms, which are more bioavailable for methane production during subsequent anaerobic digestion. Operating parameters were varied from 1.1 to 19.8 kWhr/m3 to show the influence amount of treatment has on soluble chemical oxygen demand (SCOD), small colloidal solids, and methane production via the biochemical methane potential test. When PEF treatment exceeded a threshold, which was approximately 10 kWhr/m3, focused pulsed treatment solubilized approximately 10% of the total COD, increasing SCOD from as low as 20 mg/L to more than 1000 mg/L. The process also disrupted a larger portion of the volatile suspended solids (VSS) to form small colloids not measured by the VSS assay (between 0.2 and 1.2 µm). The effects increased the biological methane potential of the samples significantly: by 80% for pig manure and 100% for WAS after 25 to 30 days. These results support the conclusion that PEF pretreatment before anaerobic digestion has the potential to significantly improve digester performance, resulting in added methane production and decreased residual biosolids.

Keywords: Anaerobic digestion; biogas; biosolids reduction; methane production; pulsed electric field pretreatment

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2009

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  • 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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