Pre-treatment of thickened waste activated sludge (TWAS) for enhanced biogas production via the application of a novel radial horn sonication technology
The efficacy of sonication as a pre-treatment to anaerobic digestion (AD) was assessed using thickened waste activated sludge (TWAS). Efficiency was measured in relation to solubilisation, dewaterability, and AD performance. Eighteen experimental conditions were evaluated at low frequency (20 kHz), duration (2–10 s), amplitude (∼8–12 μm) and applied pressure (0.5–3.0 barg), using a sonix™ patented titanium sonoprobe capable of delivering an instantaneous power of ∼6 kW provided by Doosan Enpure Ltd (DEL). An optimised experimental protocol was used as a pre-treatment for biochemical methane potential (BMP) testing and semi-continuous trials. Four digesters, with a 2-L working volume were operated mesophilically (37 ± 0.5 °C) over 22 days. The results showed that the sonix™ technology delivers effective sonication at very short retention times compared to conventional system. Results demonstrate that the technology effectively disrupts the floc structures and filaments within the TWAS, causing an increase in solubilisation and fine readily digestible material. Both BMP tests and semi-continuous trials demonstrated that sonicated TWAS gave higher biodegradability and methane potential compared to untreated TWAS. Partial-stream sonication (30:70 sonicated to untreated TWAS) resulted in a proportionate increase in biogas production illustrating the benefits of full-stream sonication.