The slow degradation rate of sewage sludge in anaerobic digesters is due to the rate limiting step of sludge hydrolysis. The effect of ultrasound pretreatment on sludge degradability was investigated using ultrasound at a frequency of 31 kHz and high acoustic intensities. Ultrasound treatment resulted in raw sludge disintegration as was demonstrated by increase of Chemical Oxygen Demand in the sludge supernatant and size reduction of sludge solids. Semi-continuous fermentation experiments with disintegrated and untreated sludge were done for four months on a half-technical scale. One fermenter was operated as a control with a conventional residence time of 22 days. Four fermenters were operated with disintegrated sludge and residence times of 22, 16, 12, and 8 days, respectively. In the fermenters operated with identical residence times of 22 days reduction of volatile solids was 45.8% for untreated sludge and 50.3% for disintegrated sludge. The fermentation of disintegrated sludge was stable even at the shortest residence time of 8 days with biogas production 2.2 times that of the control fermenter. Due to ultrasound disintegration a better degradability of raw sludge was achieved that permitted a substantial increase in throughput.

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