The effects of mechanical disintegration on anaerobic digestibility of sewage excess sludge in downflow stationary fixed film (DSFF) digesters were investigated on laboratory scale. Mechanical pretreatment using a high pressure homogenizer led to significantly enhanced concentrations of soluble proteins and carbohydrates in the feed sludge. Using DSFF digesters with two different tubular plastic media as support material it was shown that a stable digestion process could be achieved at hydraulic retention times (HRT) down to 5 days. Compared to conventional digesters at 10 d and 15 d HRT respectively, the degradation of volatile solids was enhanced up to 25%, also resulting in a higher specific biogas production. Further investigations on degradation of soluble proteins and carbohydrates showed that a slowly degradable fraction of carbohydrates was released via disintegration. Using the distribution of chain length and the concentrations of volatile fatty acids as process parameters, the dependability on the HRT and the degree of disintegration (the release of soluble COD) predominated the effects of specific surface area of the support media.

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