A distributed model of anaerobic digestion of solid waste was developed to describe the balance between the rates of polymer hydrolysis and methanogenesis during the anaerobic conversion of rich and lean wastes in batch and continuous-flow reactors. Waste, volatile fatty acids (VFAs), methanogenic biomass and sodium concentrations are the model variables. Diffusion and advection of VFAs inhibiting both polymer hydrolysis and methanogenesis were considered. A sensitivity analysis by changing the key model parameter values was carried out. The model simulations showed that the effective distance between the areas of hydrolysis/acidogenesis and methanogenesis is very important. An initial spatial separation of rich waste and inoculum enhances the methane production and waste degradation at high waste loading if relatively low VFA diffusion into the methanogenic area is taking place. When both hydrolysis and methanogenesis are strongly inhibited by high levels of VFA, fluctuations in biomass concentration are thought to be responsible for initiating the expansion of methanogenic area over the reactor space.

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