The usability of mechanical disintegration techniques for the reduction of excess sludge production in the activated sludge process was investigated. Using three different disintegration devices (ultrasonic homogeniser, stirred media mill, high pressure homogeniser) and different operational parameters of the disintegration, the effect of mechanical disintegration on the excess sludge production and on the effluent quality was studied within a continuously operated, laboratory scale wastewater treatment system with pre-denitrification. Depending on the operational conditions and the disintegration device used, a reduction of excess sludge production of up to 70% was achieved. A combination of mechanical disintegration with a membrane bioreactor process with high sludge age is more energy effective concerning reduction of sludge production than with a conventional activated sludge process at lower sludge ages. Depending on the disintegration parameters, the disintegration has no, or only minor, negative effect on the soluble effluent COD and on the COD-removal capacity of the activated sludge process. Nitrogen-removal was slightly deteriorated by the disintegration, whereas the system used was not optimised for nitrogen removal before disintegration was implemented.

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