Volatile fatty acids (VFA), derived from sludge fermentation, have been used as one effective carbon source for biological nutrient removal, especially favorable with VFA containing with high levels of propionic acid. In this paper, a new fermentation method was employed to significantly produce the propionic acid-enriched VFA from the co-fermentation liquid of sewage sludge and food waste: including (1) mixing food waste with sludge in the anaerobic digester (the first stage) and (2) separating the mixture, sterilizing the first stage liquid and fermenting it after inoculation with Propionibacterium acidipropionici (the second stage). The effect of the key parameters including pH, the mixing ratio of the food waste and sludge, fermentation time and temperature of the first stage on the propionic acid-enriched VFA production (the second stage) was individually discussed. By the molecular weight distribution analysis, the comparison of the solubilisation and hydrolysis process in difference parameters was fully elaborated. The optimal combination of the parameters was then obtained. Finally, the propionic acid-enriched VFA fermentation was successfully conducted in a semi-continuous reactor using the first stage liquid from the optimal condition.

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