The effects of microwave pretreatment on disintegration and mesophilic digestion of waste activated sludge (WAS), primary sludge (PS), combined (PS + WAS) sequencing batch reactor (SBR) sludge and anaerobically digested biocake were investigated by both household and bench scale industrial types microwaves at temperatures below and above boiling point. Pretreatment variables, temperature, intensity (cooking rate) and sludge concentration had statistically significant effects on solubilization. The microwave pretreatment also increased the bioavailability of sludge components under batch anaerobic digestion and enhanced the dewaterability of pretreated sludges after digestion. However, the level of improvements in solubilization and biodegradation from different waste sludges were different. While the largest improvement in ultimate biodegradation was observed in WAS, microwave irradiation only affected the rate of biodegradation of pretreated PS samples. Similarly, relatively lower solubilization ratios achieved for combined - SBR sludge was attributed to high sludge age of extended aeration SBR unit. It is possible that initial sludge characteristics may influence final pretreatment outcomes so that general statements of performance cannot always be made.

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