New research article by Lippert et al. 2020

Effects of ultrasonic reactor design on sewage sludge disintegration

The impact of ultrasound (US) reactor design on cavitation intensity distribution and disintegration efficiency was studied for sewage sludge pre-treatment, using a US flatbed reactor of variable reaction chamber height (RCH, 20–100 mm). Mapping of cavitation intensity and treatment effects was conducted using (i) hydrophone measurements, (ii) aluminum foil tests, and (iii) soluble chemical oxygen demand (COD) analyses. The overall disintegration efficiency was evaluated based on average COD solubilization. The impact of flow on treatment (in)homogeneity was additionally examined using computational fluid dynamics (CFD). Results of all measurement techniques suggest that small RCHs (20 mm, for instance) enable uniform and intense treatments, while large RCHs, which are subjected to strong sound wave attenuation, entail inhomogeneous treatments where large fractions of substrate are no longer exposed to notable cavitation activity. For instance, COD solubilization (relative to alkaline hydrolysis) measured in the channel center dropped from 6.4% to zero as RCH widened from 20 mm to 100 mm. Flow-through sonication further aggravates treatment inhomogeneity due to the high flow rates in the low-cavitation channel centers. Overall disintegration efficiency declined with increasing RCH, showing a drop in average COD solubilization by 73% from RCH = 20 mm to RCH = 100 mm. The drop correlated with average cavitation noise levels (R2 = 0.82), indicating that hydrophone measurements may be a suitable tool for US reactor design optimization. Overall, results suggest that reactor geometry has a critical impact on both treatment (in)homogeneity and treatment efficiency and that equal specific energy inputs do not imply equal US treatments.

Lippert et al. 2020