This study aimed to evaluate the effects of mechanical disintegration of waste activated sludge (WAS) on full scale anaerobic digestion, considering the possibility of obtaining a positive energy balance. The results showed that an increase in energy density (εL) used in disintegration was accompanied by an increase in the release of organic compounds from sludge (SCOD increased from 211 ± 125 mg O2/L for εL = 0 kJ/L to 6292 ± 2860 mgO2/L for εL = 180 kJ/L). Some of them were volatile fatty acids. The percentage share of WAS subject to disintegration was also documented as a crucial parameter affecting the efficiency of biogas production. An increase in the value of this parameter from 25% to 100%, even at much lower εL used in disintegration (therefore with much smaller amounts of organic compounds released from sludge flocs) resulted in an increase in biogas production. Conducting disintegration of the entire stream of WAS directed to the fermentation tank at εL 30 kJ/L resulted in an increase in biogas production by 14.1%. Such a surplus would allow production of approximately 360 kWh/d net electricity. Mechanical disintegration of thickened WAS therefore may be an economically justifiable strategy for the intensification of anaerobic sludge stabilisation.
Biomass for non-food applications is considered as a substitute for petro-based materials such as expanded polystyrene (EPS). This research analyzes physical properties of an EPS containing commercial bonded leveling compound (BLC) which was substituted with cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum L.) biomass. Cup plant is a high-yielding biomass plant with several ecological benefits that is yet mainly used for biogas production. Furthermore, the high amount of parenchyma in senescent biomass with its EPS-like structure could be a possible substitute for petrochemical foams in lightweight aggregates. The natural variation in parenchyma content of several European cup plant accessions is promising, regarding the development of cultivars with suitable biomass properties for the proposed material use. Two binders with different proportions of cup plant and EPS were used to produce samples of BLC for thermal conductivity and compression strength tests. The compression strength of 0.92 N mm−2 and a thermal conductivity of 84 mW m−1 K−1 were analyzed and comparable to the commercial BLC. The thermal conductivity within the tested borders appears nearly independent of the biomass content. With increasing cup plant content, the shape characteristics of the lightweight aggregate mix changes towards more elongated aggregates. The mechanical strength and thermal conductivity are highly sensitive to the water demand of the biomass. Direct partial substitution of EPS by cup plant appears feasible and could be a part of the decarbonization of the construction sector.
Innovative low-temperature disintegration (process temperature 55 °C and oxygen concentration 0.2 mg/dm3) can be an economically rational technology to intensifying energy production from renewable sources. The proposed process can achieve a degree of disintegration—under optimal conditions—of about 50%, which is excellent when compared with other methods of feed pre-treatment. The low-temperature disintegration of distillation residue and waste-activated sludge before the co-fermentation process increased biogas production by 30% and methane production by 65% (over a 26 d duration). The obtained results confirm that the low-temperature disintegration method can be effectively used to pre-prepare this type of feed. At the same time, it was discovered that the Gompertz model can be used to mathematically describe the biogas accumulation curves in the methane co-fermentation processes of the tested feeds (the correlation coefficients were higher than 0.98).