In this study, a process that combines the mesophilic anaerobic digestion (MAD) process with thermophilic aerobic digestion (TAD) for high-strength food wastewater (FWW) treatment was developed to examine the removal of organic matter and methane production. All effluent discharged from the MAD process was separated into solid and liquid portions. The liquid part was discarded and the sludge part was passed to the TAD process for further degradation. Then, the digested sludge from the TAD process was recycled back to the MAD unit to achieve low sludge discharge from the combined process. The reactor combination was operated in two phases: during Phase I, 40 d of total hydraulic retention time (HRT) was applied; during Phase II, 20 d was applied. HRT of the TAD process was fixed at 5 d. For a comparison, a control process (single-stage MAD) was operated with the same HRTs of the combined process. Our results indicated that the combined process showed over 90% total solids, volatile solids and chemical oxygen demand removal efficiencies. In addition, the combined process showed a significantly higher methane production rate than that of the control process. Consequently, the experimental data demonstrated that the combined MAD-TAD process was successfully employed for high-strength FWW treatment with highly efficient organic matter reduction and methane production.

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