Enhancing anaerobic digestion using free nitrous acid : Identifying the optimal pre-treatment condition in continuous operation

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

9 Scopus Citations
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  • Angelica Guerrero Calderon
  • Haoran Duan
  • Xiaoguang Chen
  • Ziping Wu
  • Wenbo Yu
  • Carlos E. Silva
  • Yijing Li
  • Sohan Shrestha
  • Zhiyao Wang
  • Jurg Keller
  • Zhongwei Chen
  • Shihu Hu


Original languageEnglish
Article number117694
Journal / PublicationWater Research
Online published24 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes


Free Nitrous Acid (FNA) pre-treatment is a promising technology demonstrated effective in improving waste activated sludge degradability and anaerobic digestion (AD) performance. Pre-treatment conditions including FNA concentration and treatment duration determine operational and capital cost of full-scale implementation, which have not been studied in long-term experiments. The knowledge of FNA pre-treatment conditions improving the AD performance is urgently required to determine suitable conditions for the technology implementation. In this work, five different FNA concentrations (2.2, 4.4, 7.2, 12 mgN/L and nitrite only without pH adjustment) and three treatment durations (8, 24 and 48 h) were studied in four lab-scale semi-continuous AD reactors for over 300 days. FNA pre-treatment was shown under all tested conditions effective in enhancing AD performances, while its effectiveness and resulted benefits varied substantially amongst different pre-treatment conditions. The long-term experiment demonstrated that the methane production, sludge reduction and digested sludge viscosity of AD are positively correlated with the FNA concentration and durations, until an optimal condition is reached, which was identified in this work to be FNA concentration of 7.2 mgN/L and treatment duration of 24 h. Microbial community changes supported the apparent observation of enhanced sludge degradation at elevating FNA concentrations applied during pre-treatment. The short-term sludge solubilization results were inconsistent with the long-term AD performance, which was potentially caused by inhibitions from stringent FNA pre-treatment conditions applied (FNA = 12 mgN/L with 24-hour treatment & FNA = 7.2 mgN/L with 48-hour treatment). Overall, results suggested FNA pre-treatment at the optimized condition is highly beneficial to WWTPs and competitive with other pre-treatment technologies, e.g., thermal hydrolysis pre-treatment. This work comprehensively evaluated the key design parameters of FNA pre-treatment process, reached a major milestone in the development and applications of FNA technologies. © 2021 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Research Area(s)

  • Anaerobic digestion, Free nitrous acid, Pre-treatment, Sludge reduction, Viscosity

Citation Format(s)

Enhancing anaerobic digestion using free nitrous acid: Identifying the optimal pre-treatment condition in continuous operation. / Calderon, Angelica Guerrero; Duan, Haoran; Chen, Xiaoguang et al.
In: Water Research, Vol. 205, 117694, 15.10.2021.

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review