A pilot-scale microwave technology for sludge sanitization and drying

Peter M. Mawioo*, Hector A. Garcia, Christine M. Hooijmans, Konstantina Velkushanova, Marjana Simonič, Ivan Mijatović, Damir Brdjanovic

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)
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Large volumes of sludge are produced from onsite sanitation systems in densely populated areas (e.g. slums and emergency settlements) and wastewater treatment facilities that contain high amounts of pathogens. There is a need for technological options which can effectively treat the rapidly accumulating sludge under these conditions. This study explored a pilot-scale microwave (MW) based reactor as a possible alternative for rapid sludge treatment. The reactor performance was examined by conducting a series of batch tests using centrifuged waste activated sludge (C-WAS), non-centrifuged waste activated sludge (WAS), faecal sludge (FS), and septic tank sludge (SS). Four kilograms of each sludge type were subjected to MW treatment at a power of 3.4 kW for various time durations ranging from 30 to 240 min. During the treatment the temperature change, bacteria inactivation (E. coli, coliforms, Staphylococcus aureus, and enterococcus faecalis) and sludge weight/volume reduction were measured. Calorific values (CV) of the dried sludge and the nutrient content (total nitrogen (TN) and total phosphorus (TP)) in both the dried sludge and the condensate were also determined. It was found that MW treatment was successful to achieve a complete bacterial inactivation and a sludge weight/volume reduction above 60%. Besides, the dried sludge and condensate had high energy (≥ 16 MJ/kg) and nutrient contents (solids; TN ≥ 28 mg/g TS and TP ≥ 15 mg/g TS; condensate TN ≥ 49 mg/L TS and TP ≥ 0.2 mg/L), having the potential to be used as biofuel, soil conditioner, fertilizer, etc. The MW reactor can be applied for the rapid treatment of sludge in areas such as slums and emergency settlements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1437-1448
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Faecal sludge
  • Microwave treatment
  • Pathogen reduction
  • Septic tank sludge
  • Volume reduction
  • Waste activated sludge


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