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The application of chitosan quaternary ammonium salt to replace polymeric aluminum ferric chloride for sewage sludge dewatering.

Water Research 2024 March 31
Inorganic coagulants such as poly aluminum ferric chloride (Al/Fe) are applied conventionally to sewage sludge dewatering and can be retained in the sludge cake, causing its conductivity to increase and generate secondary pollution. To reduce these disadvantages, there is a need to develop alternative, more sustainable chemicals as substitutes for conventional inorganic coagulants. In the present investigation, the application of a polymeric chitosan quaternary ammonium salt (CQAS) is explored as a complete, or partial, replacement for Al/Fe in the context of sludge dewatering processes. Laboratory experiments using digested sewage sludge showed that CQAS could effectively substitute for over 80 % of the Al/Fe inorganic coagulant in the sludge dewatering process. This substitution resulted in a reduction of sludge cake conductivity by more than 50 %. Simulation of sludge dewatering curves and imaging of the sludge surface indicated that the addition of CQAS led to an increase in nanosized pores, and a decrease in the specific resistance of the sludge filter cake as the dosage of Al/Fe decreased to around 30 %. The variations of fluorescence emission, quantum yield and carboxylic and amino groups, suggested that the chelating of Al/Fe decreased due to the bridging effects of CQAS. The CQAS had different flocculation bridging effects on various EPS fractions, which varied the amount of protein chelated with Al/Fe in each fraction. This study provides new information about the benefits of replacing conventional inorganic coagulants with natural organic polymers for sewage sludge dewatering, in terms of reduced sludge cake conductivity and greater dry solids content.

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