Density measurements of aerobic granular sludge

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Granular sludge processes are frequently used in domestic and industrial wastewater treatment. The granule buoyant density and biomass density are important parameters for the design and operation of granular sludge reactors. Different methods to measure the granule density include the pycnometer method, the Percoll density gradient method, the dextran blue method, and the settling velocity method. In this study, a comparison was made between these four methods to measure granule density for granules from a full-scale granular sludge plant treating domestic sewage. The effect of salinity on granule density was assessed as well. Three out of the four evaluated methods yielded comparable results, with granule buoyant densities between 1025.7 and 1028.1 kg/m3 and granule biomass densities between 71.1 and 71.5 g/L (based on volatile suspended solids (VSS)). The settling velocity method clearly underestimated the granule density, due to the complex relation between granule properties and settling velocity. The pycnometer method was the most precise method, but it was also quite susceptible to bias. The granule buoyant density increased proportionally with salinity, to 1049.2 kg/m3 at 36 g/L salinity. However, the granule biomass density, based on VSS, remained constant. This showed that the granule volume was not affected by salinity and that the buoyant density increase was the result of diffusion of salts into the granule pores. Overall, the granule density can be measured reliably with most methods, as long as the effect of salinity is considered. The results are discussed in light of operational aspects for full-scale granular sludge plants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1985-1995
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Technology (United Kingdom)
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • biomass density
  • buoyant density
  • density
  • Granular sludge
  • salinity


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