The influence of key chemical constituents in activated sludge on surface and flocculating properties
Journal article, 2003
This paper examines the influence of the chemical constituents of activated sludge and extracted extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) on the surface properties, hydrophobicity, surface charge and flocculating ability of activated sludge flocs. Activated sludge samples from 7 different full scale wastewater treatment plants were examined. Protein and humic substances were found to be the dominant polymeric compounds in the activated sludges and the extracted EPS, and they significantly affected the flocculating ability and surface properties, hydrophobicity and surface charge, of the sludge flocs. The polymeric compounds proteins, humic substances and carbohydrates in the sludge flocs and the extracted EPS contributed to the negative surface charge, but correlated negatively to the hydrophobicity of sludge flocs. The quantity of protein and carbohydrate within the sludge and the extracted EPS was correlated positively to the flocculating ability of the sludge flocs, while increased amounts of humic substances resulted in lower flocculating ability. In contrast, increased amounts of total extracted EPS had a negative correlation to flocculating ability. The results reveal that the quality and quantity of the polymeric compounds within the sludge flocs is more informative, with respect to understanding the mechanisms involved in flocculation, than if only the extracted EPS are considered. This is an important finding as it indicates that extracting EPS may be insufficient to characterise the EPS. This is due to the low extraction efficiency and difficulties involved in the separation of EPS from other organic compounds. Correlations were observed between the surface properties and flocculating ability of the sludge flocs. This confirms that the surface properties of the sludge flocs play an important role in the bioflocculation process but that also other interactions like polymer entanglement are important.