Bioavailable electron donors from ultrasound-treated biomass for stimulating denitrification

Youke Wang, Qiuyu Zeng, Shasha Zou, Chao Hu, Fu Chen, Yongming Zhang, Bruce E. Rittmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Finding low-cost electron donors to drive denitrification is an important target for many municipal wastewater treatment plants (MWTPs). Excess sludge (biomass) potentially is a low-cost electron donor generated internally to the MWTP, but it has to be made more bioavailable. Aerobic and anoxic biomasses were treated with ultrasound, and their supernatants were used as electron donors for stimulating denitrification. The supernatant from ultrasound-treated anoxic biomass achieved 54% faster nitrate-N removal than did supernatant from the treated aerobic biomass, and the supernatant of untreated biomass was ineffective as an electron donor. UV illumination of the supernatants further enhanced the rates, with increments of 19% and 14%, respectively for the aerobic and anoxic supernatants. Sodium acetate at a range of initial concentrations was compared as a readily bioavailable electron donor to gauge the acceleration impact of the supernatants as equivalent bioavailable chemical oxygen demand (COD). The total chemical oxygen demand (TCOD) of the supernatant harvested from anoxic biomass without UV illumination was 76% bioavailable, while its bioavailable TCOD was 78% after UV illumination. For the supernatant from the aerobic biomass, the bioavailable fractions were, respectively, 56% and 58% without and with UV illumination. The greatest impact for converting excess biomass into a source of bioavailable electron donor to drive denitrification came from ultrasound treatment of the biomass, which disrupted the biomass to form particulate chemical oxygen demand (PCOD) that was bioavailable. PCOD was at least 51% bioavailable, and it contributed no less than 82% of the bioavailable COD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109533
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
StatePublished - Nov 15 2019


  • Bioavailable electron equivalents
  • Excess sludge
  • Nitrogen removal
  • Ultrasound treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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