American Chemical Society
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Superparamagnetic Iron Oxide Nanoparticles as Additives for Microwave-Based Sludge Prehydrolysis: A Perspective

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-08-08, 01:33 authored by Dilara Hatinoglu, Junseok Lee, John Fortner, Onur Apul
Wastewater treatment plants are critical for environmental pollution control. The role that they play in protecting the environment and public health is unquestionable; however, they produce massive quantities of excess sludge as a byproduct. One pragmatic approach to utilizing excess sludge is generating methane via anaerobic digestion. For this, a prehydrolysis step can significantly improve digestion by increasing biogas quality and quantity while decreasing final sludge volumes. One of the many prehydrolysis approaches is to deliver heat into sludge via microwave irradiation. Microwave-absorbing additives can be used to further enhance thermal degradation processes. However, the implications of such an approach include potential release of said additive materials into the environment via digested sludge. In this perspective, we present and discuss the potential of superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs) as recoverable, hyperreactive microwave absorbers for sludge prehydrolysis. Due to their size and characteristics, SPIONs pack spin electrons within a single domain that can respond to the magnetic field without remanence magnetism. SPIONs have properties of both paramagnetic and ferromagnetic materials with little to no magnetic hysteresis, which can enable their rapid recovery from slurries, even in complicated reactor installations. Further, SPIONs are excellent microwave absorbers, which result in high local heat gradients. This perspective introduces the vision that SPION properties can be tuned for desirable dielectric heating and magnetic responses while maintaining material integrity to accomplish repeated use for microwave-enhanced pretreatment.