Dense flocs readily form in continuous culture bioreactors used for hydrogen production, but the fractal and hydrodynamic properties of these flocs have not been previously analyzed. We therefore examined the size distribution, fractal dimension, and hydrodynamic properties of flocs formed in a continuous flow, well-mixed reactor treating synthetic wastewater at a fixed condition of a 4.5 h hydraulic detention time (23°C, pH 5.5). The reactor was operated for a total of 3 months at three different organic loading rates (27, 53, and 80 g-COD/L-d) with influent glucose concentrations of 5, 10, and 15 g-COD/L. At all three loading rates the removal of glucose was nearly complete (98.6-99.4%) and biomass was produced in proportion to the organic loading rate (0.86 ± 0.11, 2.40 ± 0.26, and 4.59 ± 1.55 g/L of MLVSS in the reactor). Overall conversion efficiencies of glucose to hydrogen, evaluated on the basis of a maximum of 4 mol-H2/mol-glucose, increased with organic loading rates in the order 17.7%, 23.1%, and 25.6%. The gas contained 56.1 + 4.9% hydrogen, with the balance as carbon dioxide. No methane gas was detected. Under these conditions, flocs were produced with mean sizes that increased with organic loading, in the order 0.12 cm (5 g-COD/L), 0.35 cm (10g-COD/L), and 0.58 cm (15 g-COD/L). As the average floc size increased, the flocs became on average denser and less fractal, with fractal dimensions increasing from 2.11 ± 0.17 to 2.48 ± 0.13. Floc porosities ranged from 0.75-0.96, and resulted in aggregate densities that allowed little intra-aggregate flow through the floc. As a result, average settling velocities were not appreciably larger than those predicted by Stokes' law for spherical, impermeable flocs. Our results demonstrate that dense, relatively impermeable flocs are produced in biohydrogen reactors that have settling properties in reasonable agreement with Stokes' law.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology