The study was designed to investigate the effects of temperature and phosphorus limitation on polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) production and storage by activated sludge biomass. The two-stage operation approach, i.e. a growth phase followed by a nutrient limitation phase, was applied to induce PHA accumulation. The pre-selected temperatures of 10, 20 and 30°C were investigated under phosphorus limitation conditions using three four-litre fully aerobic SBR systems operated at an SRT of 10 days with cycle time and HRT of 6 and 10 hours. PHA production was greater in the 10°C system than in the 20°C and 30°C systems but there was little difference between the two higher temperatures. The maximum PHA fractions of the sludge were 52, 45 and 47%TSS for the three temperatures from low to high, and the maximum PHA concentrations in the mixed liquors were 1,491, 1,294 and 1,260 mg/l, respectively. However, it was observed that very low values of PHA yield per unit COD consumed were obtained, i.e., 0.05, 0.03 and 0.04 mgPHA/mgCODu, for the 10, 20 and 30°C reactors, respectively. This was because all three systems required several days to reach maximum PHA accumulation in their mixed liquor biomasses. It is probable the bacteria still had some stored poly-P in their cells upon initiation of the phosphorus limited influent, and PHA accumulation was delayed until the stored phosphorus was depleted. Also, PHA productivity was reduced by the large amounts of biomass lost from the systems because of sludge bulking.

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