EPSs have been believed to play a bonding role in microbial floc formation. However, the precise role is not well known. In this study, sludge settling characteristics and the carbohydrate to protein ratio in the EPS were tested at various airflow rates. Sludge was collected from three modified sequencing batch reactors (MSBRs), which were operated with airflow rates of 0.8 L/min, 2 L/min and 4 L/min, respectively. During the operation periods, the reactor operated at an airflow rate of 0.8 L/min showed a sludge volume index (SVI) of 80 to 90 mL/g and a constant ratio of carbohydrate to protein in the EPS, while a significant increase of this ratio and the SVI occurred in the other reactors. High airflow rate increased the amount of carbohydrate in the EPS, but the protein level was almost constant for reactors with airflow rates of 2 L/min and 4 L/min. The higher ratio of carbohydrate to protein caused the bulking of the sludge; hence it was not favourable for sludge settling. The ratio of carbohydrate and protein in the EPS is inferred to be essential for solid floc formation.

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