Hydrolysis of organic particulates under anaerobic conditions is generally regarded as the rate limiting step in solid digestion processes. Rumen-based ecosystems appear to achieve very high hydrolysis rates for cellulosic organic material. This study aimed at the development and demonstration of an anaerobic sequencing batch reactor (SBR) process operating with a rumen-based microbial inoculum. Fibrous alpha cellulose was used as sole carbon substrate and the use of an SBR operating cycle allowed the utilisation of a high liquid flow rate (hydraulic retention time of 0.67 d) while maintaining a much longer solids retention time of 7 d. Complete mass balances for carbon and nitrogen, as well as COD balancing allowed the full haracterisation of the process stoichiometry and kinetics. Elemental analysis of the biomass revealed a composition of C5H4.8O2.4N0.7, which is quite different from other generic biomass compositions used in the literature. The anaerobic rumen SBR was compared with another rumen-based reactor system in the literature which used a continuous filtration process for solid/liquid separation. This comparison showed that the volatile fatty acid production rate from cellulose in the anaerobic SBR was comparable with the performance achieved in the continuous system, although loading, substrate type and media composition were quite different between these two studies. Further evaluation of the anaerobic rumen SBR is required to determine its practical application for other substrates and to demonstrate the scale-up potential of this concept.

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