Biomass & Bioenergy, Vol.16, No.6, 407-416, 1999
Degradation of volatile fatty acids in highly efficient anaerobic digestion
To improve the efficiency of anaerobic digestion, we examined the effects of C-2-C-6 volatile fatty acids (VFAs) on methane fermentation, as well as the behavior of VFAs in anaerobic digestion. The VFA concentrations and methane production in anaerobic digestion were increased by pretreatment of waste activated sludge (WAS), such as ultrasonic disintegration, thermal and freezing treatments, The major intermediate products of anaerobic digestion for untreated and pretreated WAS, such as acetate, propionate, isobutyrate, butyrate, isovalerate, valerate, isocaproate and caproate, were used as substrates and the anaerobic degradation of these was carried out under the same conditions. It was found that decomposition rates of the VFAs (C-2-C-6) With a straight chain (normal form) were greater than those of their respective isomers with a branched chain (iso form). It was shown that the decomposition rates of the iso and normal forms of butyrate were greater than those of valerate and caproate. This was caused by the isomerization between butyrate and isobutyrate which occurred during the digestion process. Anaerobic bacteria in digested sludge converted butyrate to isobutyrate and vice versa by migration of the carboxyl group to the adjacent carbon atom. In addition, inhibition of degradation of the VFAs by acetate in a digester was also examined.