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Transformation and Mobility of Cu, Zn, and Cr in Sewage Sludge during Anaerobic Digestion with Pre- or Interstage Hydrothermal Treatment

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journal contribution
posted on 19.01.2021, 07:14 by Qian Wang, Chiqian Zhang, Haesung Jung, Pan Liu, Dhara Patel, Spyros G. Pavlostathis, Yuanzhi Tang
Anaerobic digestion (AD) combined with hydrothermal treatment (HT) is an attractive technology for sewage sludge treatment and resource recovery. The fate and distribution of heavy metals in the sludge during combined HT/AD significantly affect the sludge final disposal/utilization options, yet such information is still lacking. This study systematically characterizes the transformation of important heavy metals Cu, Zn, and Cr in sewage sludge during AD with pre- or interstage HT (i.e., HT-AD or AD-HT-AD, respectively). Complementary sequential chemical extraction and X-ray absorption spectroscopy were used to characterize the speciation and mobility of metals. For the HT-AD system, both Cu and Zn predominantly occur as sulfides in HT hydrochars. Subsequent AD favors the formation of Cu2S and partial transformation of nano-ZnS to adsorbed and organo-complexed Zn species. HT favors the formation of Cr-bearing silicates in hydrochars, whereas Fe­(III)-Cr­(III)-hydroxide and Cr­(III)-humic complex are the predominant Cr species in AD solids. Similar reaction pathways occur in the AD-HT-AD system with some minor differences in metal species and contents, as the first-stage AD changed the sludge matrix. These findings have important implications for understanding the fate and mobility of heavy metals in sludge-derived hydrochars and AD solids.