IWA Publishing

Image analysis of sludge aggregates obtained at preliminary treatment of sewage

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The results of wastewater treatment by Al and Fe salts and by electrocoagulation with aluminum electrodes are discussed and interpreted. Those processes used alone or combined with biological treatment, were analyzed for 50 and 90% removal of phosphates. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of the resulting sludge from three coagulation processes defined the perimeter P and area A of 129–142 differently sized objects in each contrast-enhanced image. Plots of lg A against lg P revealed that the analyzed sludge samples were made of self-similar aggregates–flocs with fractal characteristics. The slope of ‘log plots’ was used to determine surface fractal dimension Da, which was extrapolated to volumetric fractal dimension Dv. Dv was applied in a quantitative description of sludge aggregates–flocs. Aggregates–flocs of sludge obtained by Al ions (pre-polymerized Al and electrocoagulation) were characterized by higher values of Dv in comparison with sludge obtained by iron salts. The structure of {Al(OH)3} and {Fe(OH)3} aggregate–flocs was graphically simulated to determine the effect of size distribution and Dv on sweep flocculation and sludge separation and dehydration. Phosphate removal efficiency of 50% occurred at low ratios of Al:P and Fe:P. Adsorption-charge neutralization was suggested during coagulation with pre-polymerized coagulants, and sweep flow mechanism during electrocoagulation.

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