Definition Of Anaerobic Digestion Biology Essay

Anaerobic digestion is a fermentative procedure affecting the solubilisation and decrease of complex organic molecules, by a interactive group of micro-organisms, in the absence of O. Anaerobic digestion green goodss stabilised Biosolids, reduces biomass measure by partial devastation of volatile solids, and produces a functional gas as a by- merchandise.

The composing of this biogas varies, and depends to a big extent on the nature of the feedstock, organic burden rate, the hydraulic keeping clip and the temperature of anaerobiotic decomposition. However, typically, biogas is composed of the followers:

Hydrolytic bacteriums are a group of heterotrophic beings, typically rigorous and facultatively anaerobiotic in nature. The hydrolytic bacteriums are responsible for the solubilisation of complex organic supermolecules, such as protein, cellulose, lignin and lipoids, into smaller monomers ( glucose, aminic acids, fatty acids and glycerin ) , which can be straight utilised by the following group of beings ( acidogenic bacteriums ) ( Bitton, 1994 ) . Hydrolysis is achieved by extracellular enzymatic debasement of the substrate, and has been identified as the rate restricting phase of anaerobiotic digestion ( Tiehm et al. , 2001 ) .

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B. Acidogenesis

The acidogenic bacteriums, are chiefly obligate anaerobes, which convert sugars, aminic acids and fatty acids to organic acids ( volatile fatso acids, intoxicants and ketones, ( ethanol, methanol, glycerin, propanone ) , ethanoate, CO2 and H2. The resulting merchandises of acidogenesis are finally determined by the types of bacteriums present ( Bitton, 1994 ) .

C. Acetogenesis

The acetogenic population includes a figure of bacterial groups capable of acetate production. The first group being sulfate cut downing bacteriums ( SRB ) ( non obligate proton cut downing bacteriums ) , which produce ethanoate and H in a assorted civilization ( Marty, 1984 ) . Numerous surveies have focused attending on competition between SRB and methanogens in the anaerobiotic digester environment ( Fukui et al. , 2001 ) . However, a compatible relationship can be in nutritionally rich environments, such as sewerage sludge and animate being wastes ( Ueki et al. , 1992 ) .

The 2nd group is the obligate H bring forthing acetogenic bacteriums, which forms an of import symbiotic relationship with the methanogenic population.

The 3rd group is the homoacetogenic bacteriums which produces ethanoate from fructose, but are besides capable of oxidizing H and cut downing CO2 into acetic acid, moving as rivals to methanogens or as synotrophic givers of ethanoate, H and CO2 ( Marty, 1984 ; Kotsyurbenko et al. , 2001 ) .

D. Methanogenesis

Methanogens differ significantly from other bacteriums. The most important feature of the methanogen group is their ability to bring forth methane under rigorous anaerobiotic conditions ( Lange and Adring, 2001 ) .

In the anaerobiotic digester environment, there are three substrates which are of import to the methanogenic population ; acetic acid ( which yields approx. 70 % of the methane produced ) , H and CO2 from which the staying methane is formed. The bacterium responsible for methane production can be sub-divided into the groups based on their substrate penchant:

Acetoclastic methanogens

Hydrogen using methanogens ( Polprasert, 1996 ) .

The acetoclastic bacteriums convert ethanoate to methane and Carbon dioxide:

( CH3 COOH CH4 + CO2 ) . Acetoclastic bacteriums have a really slow coevals clip ( Aµ soap a‰?0.04 hour ) in comparing to the acidogenic population ( Aµ soap a‰?1 hour ) ( Bitton, 1994 ) . This is the ground that, during procedure instability, volatile fatty acids ( VFA ) may roll up, which inhibits the activity of subsequent interactive bacteriums, ensuing in pH diminution. The pH does non impact the acidogenic bacterium themselves, nevertheless, until it drops below 4.5 ( Marty, 1984 ) .

The H using methanogens convert H and CO2 to methane as follows: CO2 + 4H2 CH4 + 2H20. In making this, hydrogen partial force per unit area within the reactor is kept low, helping in the transition of VFA and intoxicants to acetate, by the acetogenic bacteriums ( Bitton, 1994 ) .

Parameters for Optimum Digestion


Bacterias are classified by three scopes of temperature at which they can turn. Generally, different strains of bacteriums grow in the different temperature ranges. The scopes for growing are:

Below 0 oC to 15 oC ( Psychrophilic )

From 15 oC to 45 oC ( Mesophilic )

From 45 oC. to 70 oC ( Thermophilic )

The rate of digestion is temperature dependent. In the temperature scope below 45 oC digestion becomes slower as temperature decreases, and mesophilic digestion virtually ceases at about 15 oC. However, the bacteriums are non inactivated and digestion will take topographic point if the bacteriums are allowed sufficient clip to acclimatize to environmental conditions. Above 50 oC, in the thermophilic temperature scope ( 65 oC to 70 oC ) , digestion takes topographic point at an increased rate, as substrate use is increased. To day of the month, the bulk of research has focused on mesophilic digestion. It is accepted, nevertheless, that the bacteriums concerned in thermophilic digestion are different species than those of a mesophilic digester. In general, the optimal temperature for mesophilic digestion is about 35 oC and for thermophilic digestion 55 to 60 oC ( Hobson and Wheatley, 1993 ) .

Pre-treatment of feedstock

While all organic compounds are biodegradable, the initial phases of anaerobiotic digestion are rate-limiting i.e. hydrolysis and solubilisation. However, there are a scope of pre-treatment applications that can significantly increase the rate of biodegradation by physically, chemically or automatically changing the microbial cell ( cell lysis ) .

In the instance of nutrient waste digestion mechanical decomposition is typically employed to cut down the atom size to 12mm or below.

Potentially Toxic Compounds

Hydrogen ion concentration, and several other compounds such as heavy metals and chloro-organic compounds, affect the rate of anaerobiotic digestion, even at really low concentrations.

Other Potentially toxic compounds that might be present are oxygen and sulfide. Some O may be introduced in the entrance provender watercourse, but it will be used for oxidative metamorphosis in the acidogenesis procedure. Sulphide can be formed in the procedure due to the decrease of sulfate. ( Van Haandel and Lettinga, 1994 ) .


Although some natural commixture occurs in an anaerobiotic digester, because of lifting sludge gas bubbles and the thermic convection currents caused by the add-on of heat, this degree of commixture is non equal to guarantee stable procedure public presentation at high lading rates. It is hence necessary that a commixture system is installed to make an homogenous environment throughout the reactor.

There are a figure of techniques to guarantee equal commixture within the digester, such as gas injection, mechanical commixture, and mechanical pumping ( Quasim, 1999 ) .

Gas Injection: there are two chief types of gas injectors, described as unconfined and confined. In the unconfined system, gas is collected at the top of the reactor, compressed and so discharged through diffusors situated at the underside of the reactor or through a series of radially placed top -mounted spears. Mixing is achieved by the releases of gas bubbles which rise to the surface, transporting and traveling the sludge. In the confined system, while gas is once more collected at the top of the reactor and compressed, it is so discharged in the digester through confined tubings. There are two chief types of confined system, depending on the type of gas distribution system required, The Gas Lifter System and The Gas Piston System. Both the unconfined and confined gas injection systems are suited for usage in digesters with fixed, drifting and gas holder covers.

Mechanical commixture: such sociables are normally installed into a shaft tubing to advance perpendicular commixture. It is necessary to guarantee preliminary intervention is in topographic point to forestall fouling of propellors by shreds and other transeunt stuffs. Low velocity turbines are normally employed for blending. Mechanical sociables are suited for usage in digesters with fixed or drifting screens.

External pumped circulation: Sludge is pumped out of the digester and so returned by recirculation. Sludge is normally removed mid manner in the digester and can be returned to the base or surface of the reactor to break-up trash. This method requires high-energy input.

Numerous surveies have been conducted on the importance of blending in footings of digester public presentation, many of which holding contradictory results. For illustration, the importance of commixture was illustrated by Casey ( 1984 ) , who outlined that unequal commixture caused two chief jobs within the reactor:

Flotation of solids, due to biogas bubbles turning on the surface of the digesters solids which can do perkiness forces and therefore solids form a surface flotation bed.

Colony of heavier solids organizing a bottom sedimentation bed.

Flotation is deemed to be the most damaging to the digestion procedure, since the atoms which float are Centres of colonization for methanogens. Casey besides noted that important commixture can happen in a full graduated table digester of course without supplementation, due to biogas production and convective currents caused by warming, chiefly due to the speed of gas bubbles as they rise to the top of the reactor, therefore blending strength is design dependant. Pilot graduated table digesters do non hold the tallness required to guarantee equal natural commixture and therefore unequal commixture is evident in such instances. However, Stroot et al. , ( 2001 ) besides noticed contradictory information on the subject of digester commixture, and so conducted a pilot survey to find the deductions of fluctuations in blending government for the stableness of mesophilic anaerobiotic digesters. The trial substrates included: the organic fraction of municipal solid waste, primary sludge, and waste activated sludge ( WAS ) . Six digesters were operated to compare public presentation under uninterrupted commixture and decreased commixture degrees at assorted lading rates and solids degrees. The chief result of this research was that uninterrupted assorted digesters exhibited unstable public presentation at higher burden rates ( propionate accretion ) , while the minimally assorted digesters performed good for all loading rates evaluated. Consequences besides showed that an unstable continuously assorted digester was rapidly stabilised by cut downing the blending degree.

Adequate Metabolism Time

Kiely ( 1997 ) , defined hydraulic keeping clip ( HRT ) as: Working volume of reactor ( L )

Rate of sludge remotion ( L / D )

And solids keeping clip ( SRT ) as: Mass of solids in reactor ( kilogram )

Rate of solids removed ( kg/d )

Both parametric quantities are of critical importance to the anaerobiotic digestion procedure, as the keeping clip must be higher than the coevals clip of the slowest turning micro-organism in the system, to forestall wash-out of the active biomass, and must besides be long plenty to accomplish the needed grade of volatile solids devastation ( Dohanyos and Zabranska, 2001 ) . The methanogens have the slowest coevals clip, when compared to the other members of the anaerobiotic digester microbic pool, runing from less than two yearss to more than 20 yearss at a mesophilic temperature ( Malina and Pohland, 1992 ) .

In a CSTR without recycle, the HRT and SRT are equal, runing from 15 – 30 yearss typically ( Tchobanoglous et al. , 2001 ) . At the higher scope of keeping clip, a safety factor against wash-out is permitted and maximal contact clip is allowed, easing agitation of slow digesting polyose feedstocks.

Restricting Factors to Digestion Process and Process Control

Process instability may originate due to organic overloading, hydraulic overloading, toxins in the feedstock, and temperature fluctuations, which may ensue in the accretion of intermediate byproducts ( VFA ) , taking to environmental alterations within the digester and a displacement in microbic populations. Sing the fact that methanogens have the strictest environmental and nutritionary demands, such instability frequently leads to a diminution in Numberss. With unequal procedure control, souring of the digester is inevitable. Fortunately, due to the complex nature of the procedure, which involves a series of mutualist microbic phases of debasement, and due to a good apprehension of the procedure biological science ; instability, should it happen, can be foreseen by regular analysis of procedure intermediates and byproducts, leting remedial action to be taken. The analytical parametric quantities chosen may be indirect indexs, such as the concentration of a metabolite in the digester, or a direct position index, such as the figure of active micro-organisms in the system. The most common parametric quantities used to bespeak procedure stableness are indirect, including pH, alkalinity, VFA, biogas production and methane output ( Bjornsson et al. , 2001 ; Michaud et al. , 2001 ) . However, a figure of other parametric quantities are used to measure overall remotion efficiency, chiefly solids analysis and chemical O demand.


pH represents the acidic nature of a liquid or the entire concentration of H ions within the liquid ( Fifield & A ; Hains, 2000 ) . It is used extensively as a monitoring tool of the anaerobiotic digestion procedure, and was considered the most of import parametric quantity by Irish works operators in a study conducted in 2000 ( Scahill, 2000 ) . Typically, anaerobiotic digesters operate at a narrow pH of 6.8 – 7.2. This is declarative of proper balance between the stuff entrance and that discharged from the digester ( W.P.C.F, 1987 ) . Should the pH lessening below 6.0, the methanogenic bacteriums are inhibited, characterised by a diminution in methane production and VFA accretion within the digester ( Dohanyos and Zabranska, 2001 ) .


The alkalinity of a liquid is a step of its capacity to neutralize acids. There are three major categories of stuffs that contribute to the alkalinity of a liquid: hydrated oxide, carbonate, and hydrogen carbonate. In anaerobiotic environments salts of weak acids such as acetic, propionic, and H sulfide besides contribute to the entire alkalinity of the liquid ( Sayer, 1999 ) .

Alkalinity within the digester is of major importance during the acerb stage of the anaerobiotic digestion procedure, to guarantee equal neutralization or buffering of intermediate acids, guaranting optimal conditions for methanogenic bacteriums. Typically, anaerobiotic digesters may hold an alkalinity of 2000 – 6000mg/l as CaCO3. However, should alkalinity autumn below this degree, a figure of stairss can be taken to relieve instability. The first is to discontinue feeding until the pH increases to 6.8 ( approx. ) , this action allows the methanogenic population clip to devour the backlog of VFA. Second, chemicals may be added to increase the alkalinity, and therefore the pH, within the digester unnaturally. Chemicals such as hydrogen carbonates ( which add bicarbonate alkalinity straight ) or carbonate salts ( which trap CO2 from the gas and change over it to bicarbonate ) are utilized. The add-on of chemicals in the hydrogen carbonate signifier is preferred, as precise add-ons can be achieved, unlike the carbonate salts, which must be added in little stairss ( to forestall the accretion of indissoluble Ca salts ) to let clip for gas equilibrium to happen between each add-on ( Dohanyos and Zabranska, 2001 ) .

Volatile Fatty Acids ( VFA )

VFA such as: propionate, butyrate, iosobutyrate and ethanoate, are formed as intermediates during the anaerobiotic debasement of saccharides, proteins, and fats. Excess VFA can be repressive to the digestion procedure and must be managed. Typically, VFA concentrations runing from 50 – 250 mg/l as acetic acid indicates a satisfactory balance between the methanogenic and acidogenic bacteriums. However, should suppression of methanogens occur, due to operational or environmental alterations, a lessening in the rate of VFA devastation may happen, taking to accretion within the system and a corresponding decrease in pH. Under conditions of instability, VFA ‘s may make concentrations of 2000 – 6000 mg/l and will non diminish until a neutralization agent is added to increase pH to the required degree ( Sayer, 1999 ) .

In footings of methanogenic bacteriums, metamorphosis of short concatenation fatty acids are of critical importance. Acetate, for illustration, outputs to approx. 75 % of the methane produced during digestion. Propionate and butyrate are of import VFA ‘s besides, non merely for the ground that they may be farther converted into ethanoate and H, finally giving methane, but besides because the accretion of these intermediate acids in the undissociated signifier retards the growing of several microbic species, which may do a subsequent lessening in methane production ( Aguilar, 1995 ) .

Propionic acid in peculiar has been proposed as a valuable index of procedure public presentation. It has been noted to roll up within the digester when the procedure has been subjected to floor burden, overloading, or during start-up ( Gujer, 1983 ) . A survey conducted by Inanc et al. , ( 1996 ) , proposed that propionic acerb accretion during procedure instability is due to displacements in the acidogenic bacterial population and stop merchandise distribution. Following pilot anaerobiotic digestion tests, microscopic scrutiny of anaerobiotic biomass showed the bacteriums present to be Gram-positive rods, during periods of butyric acid accretion, while during periods of propionic acid accretion the bacteriums were Gram-negative rods. The survey besides suggested that the two- stage anaerobiotic digester constellation, where the acidogenic reactor is operated at a pH of 5 or less, could forestall propionic acid accretion, as the propionic acid bring forthing bacterial species were inhibited during pilot tests at pH 5.

COD ( Chemical Oxygen Demand ) and its Equality of Methane

COD is a step of the sum of O required to chemically oxidize organic affair in a sample. The sum of O is measured straight in mg/l as the O tantamount utilizing a strong chemical oxidizer. COD is analysed in 2 separate constituents, Total COD, which includes soluble and colloidal affair and Soluble COD consisting of the soluble fraction of anaerobiotic wastewaters which contains residuary degradable and non or easy degradable inflowing substrate, and intermediates merchandises, such as ; VFA, ( Barker et al. , 1999 ) . Soluble Pod in itself is an of import parametric quantity, as it discloses information in respect to the extent of hydrolysis and solubilisation carried out by the acidogenic bacteriums. ( Maharaj and Elefsiniotis, 2001 )

The measure of methane produced per gm of COD removed can be easy determined for mass balance appraisals. The COD equivalent of methane is:

CH4 + 2 O2 CO2 + 2H2O

From the above equation, it can be determined that for each mole of methane consumed ( 22.4 L @ 0 oC ) , two moles of O equivalent are destroyed ( 64g ) . Therefore, 0.35 L ( 22.4 L / 64g ) of CH4 at 0 oC and 760 millimeter HG force per unit area ( STP ) is tantamount to 1 g COD devastation. At a mesophilic temperature nevertheless, the CH4 equality is 0.395 L at 35 oC and one atmosphere { 5.6 ft. 3 @ 0 oC and 6.3 ft. 3 @ 35 oC of methane is produced / lb COD destroyed } ( Speece, 1996 ; Michaud et al. , 2001 ; Tchobanoglous et al. , 2001 ) .


Entire solids refers to the stuff residue left in a vas following vaporization and drying of the sample in an oven at the designated temperature ( APHA et al. , 1995 ) .

The solids part is farther classified by ignition of the sample at 550 i‚°C +/- 50 i‚°C. The ignition procedure causes oxidization of the organic fraction of the solid affair, and is therefore driven off by the utmost temperature ( Volatile Solids ) . The ash staying in the vas represents inorganic affair or Fixed Solids ( Tchobanoglous and Barton, 1991 ) .

The extent of digestion is frequently measured by volatile solids decrease. Anaerobic digestion can accomplish Volatile Solids devastation of 40 – 60 % and an overall devastation in entire sludge volume of 25 – 30 % ( approx. ) ( Quasim, 1999 ) .

Biogas Quantity and Quality

Digester gas analysis can supply valuable informations on the procedure efficiency. Biogas composing depends mostly on the natural stuff, organic burden and, clip and temperature of decomposition.

Monitoring of the biogas quality can be used as a step of digestion efficiency, as regular monitoring conveys divergences from typically obtained values of single gas constituents, leting the operator to take remedial action every bit shortly as unstable conditions are noticed. ( Polprasert, 1996 ) .