Enhanced short chain fatty acids production from waste activated sludge conditioning with typical agricultural residues: carbon source composition regulates community functions

A wide range of value-added by-products can be potentially produced from waste activated sludge (WAS) through anaerobic fermentation, among which short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are versatile green chemicals, but the conversion yield of SCFAs is usually constrained by the low carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of the original WAS. Conditioning of the WAS with cellulose-containing agricultural residues (ARs) has been reported to be an efficient and economical solution for balancing its nutrient components. However, contributions of different ARs to SCFAs production are still not well understood. To optimise SCFAs production through carbon conditioning of WAS, the authors investigated the effects of two typical ARs [straws and spent mushroom substrates (SMSs)] on WAS hydrolysis and acidification in semi-continuous anaerobic fermentation. Straw-conditioning group showed a threefold increase in short-chain fatty acids yield over blank test (without conditioning), which was 1.2-fold higher than that yielded by SMS-conditioning. The maximum SCFAs yield in straw-conditioning groups reached 486.6 mgCOD/gVSS (Sludge retention time of 8 d) and the highest volumetric SCFAs productivity was 1.83 kgCOD/gVSS (Sludge retention time of 5 d). In batch WAS fermentation tests, higher initial SCFAs production rates were achieved in straw-conditioning groups [49.5 and 52.2 mgCOD/(L·h)] than SMS-conditioning groups [41.5 and 35.2 mgCOD/(L·h)]. High-throughput sequencing analysis revealed that the microbial communities were significantly shifted in two conditioning systems. Carbohydrate-fermentation-related genera (such as Clostridium IV, Xylanibacter, and Parabacteroides) and protein-fermentation-related genus Lysinibacillus were enriched by straw-conditioning, while totally different fermentation genera (Levilinea, Proteiniphilum, and Petrimonas) were enriched by SMS-conditioning. Canonical correlation analysis illustrated that the enrichment of characteristic genera in straw-conditioning group showed positive correlation with the content of cellulose and hemicellulose, but showed negative correlation with the content of lignin and humus. The authors concluded that compared with SMSs, straw-conditioning remarkably accelerated WAS hydrolysis and conversion, resulting in higher SCFAs yield. Distinct microbial communities were induced by different types of ARs. And the communities induced by straw-conditioning were verified with better acid production ability than SMS-conditioning. High cellulose accessibility of carbohydrate substrates played a crucial role in enriching bacteria with better hydrolysis and acidification abilities.

Authors: Guo Z, Zhou A, Yang C, Liang B, Sangeetha T, He Z, Wang L, Cai W, Wang A, Liu W. ;Full Source: Biotechnology Biofuels. 2015 Nov 25;8:192. ;