Agnieszka Garlicka, Monika Zubrowska-Sudol, Katarzyna Umiejewska, Otton Roubinek, Jacek Palige, Andrzej Chmielewski
The main purpose of this study was the assessment of the possibility of increasing the production of biogas through the pre-treatment of thickened excess sludge (TES) by means of the hydrodynamic cavitation (HC) conducted at different levels of energy density (EL) i.e., 70, 140 and 210 kJ/L. The experiments were performed on a pilot scale, and a mixture of thickened primary sludge (TPS) and TES was used as digester feed. The results documented that an important parameter determining the possibility of obtaining an enhanced methane production is the value of energy input in the HC process. This parameter determines the changes occurring in sludge as a result of disintegration (i.e., sludge floc deagglomeration, lysis of cells, re-flocculation process and the related release of compounds susceptible to biodegradation from sludge flocs). The maximum increase in methane yield (MY) of 152% was obtained for EL = 140 kJ/L. In this case, HC mainly caused sludge floc deagglomeration. An increase in MY was also recorded when TES was subject to the disintegration process at EL = 210 kJ/L. However, it was 4.3 times lower than that observed for EL = 140 kJ/L. Pre-treatment of TES at EL = 70 kJ/L did not contribute to an increase in methane production.