This study provides a comparison of the sludge characteristics along the height of an upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor in terms of sludge morphology, activity and stability. The main aim of this study was to identify the best location (i.e. where sludge is of lowest stability and/or highest concentration) in the sludge bed for conveying the sludge from the low temperature UASB reactor to a digester. The sludge profile was investigated by collecting sludge samples along the different heights of the UASB-anaerobic membrane bioreactor treating municipal wastewater. Results showed that total solids and volatile solids concentrations decreased with height, and the highest chemical oxygen demand concentration was observed at the bottom of the reactor. Active biomass remained near inlet of the reactor; whereas, non-active biomass consisted of loose, suspended particles and flocculents moved towards the top. This was confirmed by the high specific COD consumption rate near the inlet and poor specific COD biodegradation in the remaining portions of the bioreactor. Apparently, the assumption of a completely mixed sludge bed behavior for the UASB reactor, being part of an AnMBR system, does not hold for this type of reactor systems even at low temperatures, which makes the location in sludge bed from where the sludge is to be conveyed to the digester of operational importance. Considering the observed sludge bed stratification, the sludge to be recirculated from the UASB reactor to the digester is recommended to be taken from 40 to 50% of the sludge bed height.
- Anaerobic membrane bioreactor
- Microbial community
- Municipal wastewater
- Sludge stability
- Upflow anaerobic sludge blanket reactor