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Synthetic sludge: A physical/chemical model in understanding bioflocculation

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We postulate a mechanism for floc formation and demonstrate its feasibility by building synthetic sludge flocs. In this work, polystyrene latex particles of a size similar to bacteria are used to simulate individual bacteria; alginate, a polysaccharide, is used to simulate microbial extracellular polymers; and calcium ions are used as the bridging cations. Calcium and alginate are added at typical concentration ranges relative to the amount of microorganisms existing in wastewater treatment biological sludges. Flocs are formed almost instantly by the addition of calcium ions and are observed to be remarkably similar to the activated sludge flocs in physical appearance. Floc formation is faster at higher calcium concentrations. Higher alginate and calcium concentrations always ensure lower turbidities indicating better floc forming abilities.

The results of this study indicate that formation of metal-polymer complexes and polymer gelation are important means of flocculation. Because of similar concentration ranges of alginate and calcium in this study to extracellular polymers and calcium in activated sludge, these mechanisms of flocculation are suggested also to be the main mechanism of interaction during bioflocculation in activated sludge systems.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 July 1996

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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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