Sludge bulking caused by loss of stability is a major problem in aerobic granular sludge systems. This study investigated the feasibility of preventing sludge bulking and enhancing the stability of aerobic granular sludge in a sequencing batch reactor by optimizing operation conditions. Five operation parameters have been studied with the aim to understand their impact on sludge bulking. Increasing dissolved oxygen (DO) by raising aeration rates contributed to granule stability due to the competition advantage of non-filamentous bacteria and permeation of oxygen at high DO concentration. The ratio of polysaccharides to proteins was observed to increase as the hydraulic shear force increased. When provided with high/low organic loading rate (OLR) alternately, large and fluffy granules disintegrated, while denser round-shape granules formed. An increase of biomass concentration followed a decrease at the beginning, and stability of granules was improved. This indicated that aerobic granular sludge had the resistance of OLR. Synthetic wastewater combined highly and slowly biodegradable substrates, creating a high gradient, which inhibited the growth of filamentous bacteria and prevented granular sludge bulking. A lower chemical oxygen demand/N favored the hydrophobicity of granular sludge, which promoted with granule stability because of the lower diffusion rate of ammonia. The influence of temperature indicated a relatively low temperature was more suitable.

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