Moisture is a key environmental factor that affects many aspects of the composting process. Biodegradation kinetics are affected by moisture through changes in oxygen diffusion, water potential and water activity, and microbial growth rates. These relationships are made more complex by the dynamic nature of the composting process, with changes in particle size and structure occurring over time. A deductive model of the effects of moisture on composting kinetics has defined these relationships based on fundamental physical properties and biological mechanisms. This study applies this model to experimental data from a manure and papermill sludge composting system. The results demonstrate that the optimum moisture content for biodegradation can vary widely for different compost mixtures and times in the composting process, ranging from near 50 to over 70% on a wet basis. While there is a significant reduction in biodegradation rate when operating outside the optimum range, the results also suggest opportunities to mitigate this effect through manipulation of substrate density and particle size. This framework for engineering analysis demonstrates the importance and challenges of maintaining optimum moisture content in dynamic composting systems, where biological drying, metabolic water production, and changes in compaction and porosity are all occurring over time.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Waste Management and Disposal
- Soil Science