The effect of organic loading rate (OLR) on aerobic granulation was studied by adopting three column-shaped, sequential aerobic sludge blanket reactors (SASBR). The reactors had been fed with laboratory prepared, synthetic dextrose-nutrient broth substrate. Experimental results showed clearly that the formation, characteristics and stability of aerobic granules had a close relationship with the strength of OLR applied. Aerobic granules appeared firstly under the OLR of 4 kg COD×(m3·day)−1. The system stabilization was demonstrated by its little-changed amount and morphology of granules. The characteristics of the stabilized granules were: 5.4 mm in mean diameter, 1.29 in roundness, 118 mg O2·(mg VSS·hr)−1 in SPOUR. The respective biomass SVI was 50 mL·(g MLVSS)−1 and the averaged COD removal rate was 95%. Under the OLR of 8 kg COD·(m3·day)−1, granules appeared two days later than those for 4 kg COD·(m3·day)-1 and they always coexisted with flocs. The formed granule bed was not as compact as that under 4 kg COD·(m3·day)−1. There were no granules formed under the OLR of 1 kg COD·(m3·day)−1. Instead, flocs with rather loose structure dominated reactor mixed-liquor. The respective SVI's were 65 and 138 mL·(g MLVSS)−1 under OLR of 8 and 1 kg COD·(m3·day)−1. It was proposed that the growth and maintenance of aerobic granules follow the shear force balance theory. Under the OLR of 4 kg COD·(m3·day)−1, a balance was reached between the aeration shear force and organic loading rate. Under this favored condition aerobic granules formed quickly and, became stabilized with the experimental parameters remained unchanged.

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