Sludge fermentation between pH 4 and 11 was investigated to generate volatile fatty acids (VFA). Despite the highest sludge solubilization of 25.9% at pH 11, VFA accumulation was optimized at pH 8 (12.5% out of 13.1% sludge solubilization). 454 pyrosequencing identified wide diversity of acidogens in bioreactors operated at the various pHs, with Tissierella, Petrimonas, Proteiniphilum, Levilinea, Proteiniborus and Sedimentibacter enriched and contributing to the enhanced fermentation at pH 8. Hydrolytic enzymatic assays determined abiotic effect to be the leading cause for improved solubilization under high alkaline condition but the environmental stress at pH 9 and above might lead to disrupt biological activities and eventually VFA production. Furthermore, molecular weight (MW) characterization of the soluble fractions found large MW aromatic substances at pH 9 and above, that is normally associated with poor biodegradability, making them disadvantageous for subsequent bioprocesses. The findings provided information to better understand and control sludge fermentation.
- 454 pyrosequencing
- Size exclusion chromatography (SEC)
- Sludge fermentation
- Volatile fatty acids (VFA)