Pondicherry University

Enhancement in the Treatment Efficiency and Conversion to Energy of Dairy Wastewaters by Augmenting CST Reactors With Simple Biofilm Support Systems

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Courtesy of Pondicherry University

Dairy wastewaters are rich in organic carbon and nutrients. When disposed without proper treatment they cause severe pollution of water and land. But if treated by anaerobic fermentation such wastewaters can yield useful clean energy in the form of methane. The systems commonly used for such fermentation throughout the world are Continuously Stirred Tank Reactors (CSTRs). We describe attempts to upgrade CSTR performance by incorporating biofilm support systems (BSSs) within the existing reactors. The focus of the work has been to find inexpensive and easy-to-install BSS which could significantly enhance the rate of waste treatment as well as quantum of energy recovery (as methane). Our experiments with various BSS options have revealed that rolls of nylon mesh (~1mm openings), of 5 cm height and 2 cm dia, when incorporated in CSTRs at the biofilm-surface : digester-volume ratio 0.3 cm 2 /cm 3 , enabled the CSTRs to perform better with upto 25% improvement in methane yield. The studies, thus, reveal that simple devices of the type used by us as BSS can significantly improve the performance of CST anaerobic digesters treating dairy wastes. The enhancement is evidently due to the development of active biofilms on the BSS which not only enhance the contact of the water with micro-organisms but also reduce microbial washout. Further, such devices are inexpensive and very easy to incorporate - the gains are thus achieved with very little cost and effort. BSSs were also found by us to enhance conversion of volatile fatty acids derived earlier by us from aquatic weed water hyacinth into methane-rich biogas.

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