Effects of a thermochemical pretreatment on the anaerobic digestion of waste activated sludge (WAS) was investigated by semicontinuously-fed digesters operated at 37¡C. WAS from a return sludge line of a municipal sewage treatment plant was pretreated by autoclaving at 130°C for 5 minutes after adding 0.3g NaOH/g VSS. Solids of WAS were thermochemically solubilized to one half and then 60% or more were in totality solubilized in anaerobic digesters fed with pretreated WAS at 2-8 days of hydraulic retention times (HRT), while only 16-36% were solubilized in digesters fed with raw WAS. The adverse effect of the set temperature (130°C) on the biodegradability of protein was not found. As a result, removal rates of COD in digestion was increased from 38% to 57% at 8 days HRT by the pretreatment. A specific methane production rate in the pretreated process was three times as high as the normal process. The thermochemical pretreatment was found to be very effective to enhance biodegradability as well as solubilization of WAS in anaerobic digestion.

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