College of Environmental Science and Engineering, Hunan University, Changsha, 410082, PR China; Key Laboratory of Environmental Biology and Pollution Control (Hunan University), Ministry of Education, Changsha, 410082, PR China. Electronic address: [Email]
Recent investigations verified that calcium peroxide (CaO2) could be used to pretreat waste activated sludge to promote methane yield from anaerobic digestion. However, the underlying mechanism of how CaO2 pretreatment promotes methane production is unclear. This work therefore aims to provide insights into such systems. Experimental results showed that with an increase of CaO2 dosage from 0 to 0.14 g/g VSS (volatile suspended solids) the methane yield increased linearly from 146.3 to 215.9 mL/g VSS. Further increases of CaO2 resulted in decreases in methane yield. CaO2 pretreatment promoted the disintegration of sludge and the degradation of sludge recalcitrant organics (especially humus and lignocellulose), thereby providing more substrates for subsequent methane production. Ultraviolet absorption spectroscopy indicated that CaO2 enhanced the cleavage of unsaturated conjugated bonds and reduced the aromaticity of humus and lignocellulose. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy showed that CaO2 changed the structures and functional groups of humus and lignocellulose, making them transform to be biodegradable. GC/MS analyses exhibited that the degradation products of humus and lignocellulose included several types of small molecular organics such as ester-like, acid-like, and alcohol-like substances. Further investigation demonstrated that substantial methane could be produced from these degradation products. It was also found that the presence of recalcitrant organics was detrimental to anaerobes relevant to anaerobic digestion, and the degradation of such recalcitrant organics mitigated their inhibitions to the anaerobes. Model-based analysis suggested that CaO2 pretreatment increased the maximum methane yield and methane production rate, which were consistent with the analysis above.