Effect of ultrasonic and alkaline pretreatment on sludge degradation and electricity generation by microbial fuel cell

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Both ultrasonic and alkaline pretreatment of excess sewage sludge were investigated to enhance organic degradation and electricity generation from sludge by the subsequent microbial fuel cell (MFC). The ultrasonic pretreatment showed that the degree of sludge disintegration was directly related to the energy input, ultrasonic density and duration. Alkaline pretreatment demonstrated that more soluble organic matters were released from the sludge with more NaOH dose and longer reaction time, and the degree of sludge disintegration within 30 min accounted for 45–76% of that for 24 h. When ultrasonic and alkaline pretreatment were combined, the released chemical oxygen demand (COD) was higher than those with ultrasonic or alkaline pretreatment alone. Ultrasonic and alkaline (pH=11) pretreatment could enhance electricity generation from sludge by the subsequent MFC, resulting in more degradation of total COD (TCOD) and volatile solids (VS). Slight change in power output from the MFC was observed due to the higher soluble chemical oxygen demand (SCOD) in the pretreated sludge. By using the combined ultrasonic and alkaline pretreatment of sludge, the removal efficiencies of TCOD and VS were increased from 27.1% to 61.0% and 35.2% to 62.9% in comparison with raw sludge, respectively, and the power output in MFC was slightly increased from 10.3 W/m3 to 12.5 W/m3.

Keywords: alkaline pretreatment, microbial fuel cell (MFC), sludge, ultrasonic pretreatment

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