Internal Circulation (IC) reactors can be operated at higher reactor volume loading rates than Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket (UASB) reactors. This results in increased gas production rates and subsequently higher average shear rates in IC-reactors. Furthermore, the liquid upflow velocity is 8-20 times higher, still granules develop successfully in IC-reactors. To investigate the granule development in IC-reactors and elucidate the process limitations with respect to granule development and biomass retention, granule samples from three full scale IC-reactors are characterized. Characterization included size distribution, strength, settling velocity, density, ash content and methanogenic activity. Granules were compared with samples from UASB reactors treating similar types of wastewaters. A hydrodynamic model was developed to describe the liquid circulation in IC reactors. The average shear rate in IC reactors is approximately twice as high compared to UASB-reactors. The two stage design of the IC-reactor allows 3-6 times higher loading rate. The experimental results showed that IC-granules are larger than UASB-granules grown on similar wastewater, while the strength of IC-granules is lower as a result of the higher sludge loading rate. Although wash-out is slightly enhanced in IC-reactors, the conditions in the second stage are tranquil enough to ensure adequate biomass retention in IC-reactors. The development of characteristic IC-granules after seeding proceeds within a few months. Physical characteristics of granules are determined mainly by biological factors.

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