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Two-Phase Improves Performance of Anaerobic Membrane Bioreactor Treatment of Food Waste at High Organic Loading Rates

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journal contribution
posted on 01.08.2019, 21:14 by Yamrot M. Amha, Michael Corbett, Adam L. Smith
Anaerobic membrane bioreactors (AnMBRs) are in use at the full-scale for energy recovery from food waste (FW). In this study, the potential for two-phase (acid/gas) AnMBR treatment of FW was investigated as a strategy to increase microbial diversity, thereby improving performance. Two bench-scale AnMBRs were operated in single-phase (SP) and two-phase (TP) mode across incremental increases in organic loading rate (OLR) from 2.5 to 15 g total chemical oxygen demand (COD) L·d–1. The TP acid-phase (TP-AP) enriched total VFAs by 3-fold compared to influent FW and harbored a distinct microbial community enriched in fermenters that thrived in the low pH environment. The TP methane phase (TP-MP) showed increased methane production and resilience relative to SP as OLR increased from 3.5 to 10 g COD L·d–1. SP showed signs of inhibition (i.e., rapid decrease in methane production per OLR) at 10 g COD L·d–1, whereas both systems were inhibited at 15 g COD L·d–1. At 10 g COD L·d–1, where the highest difference in performance was observed (20.3% increase in methane production), activity of syntrophic bacteria in TP-MP was double that of SP. Our results indicate that AnMBRs in TP mode could effectively treat FW at OLRs up to 10 g COD·L day–1 by improving hydrolysis rates, microbial diversity, and syntroph activity, and enriching resistant communities to high OLRs relative to AnMBRs in SP mode.

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