Microwave-based Pretreatment, Pathogen Fate and Microbial Population in a Dairy Manure Treatment System

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Virginia Tech


Anaerobic digestion and struvite precipitation are two effective ways of treating dairy manure for recovering biogas and phosphorus. Anaerobic digestion of dairy manure is commonly limited by slow fiber degradation, while one of the limitations to struvite precipitation is the availability of orthophosphate. The aim of this work was to study the use of microwave-based thermochemical pretreatment to simultaneously enhance manure anaerobic digestibility (through fiber degradation) and struvite precipitation (through phosphorus solubilization). Microwave heating combined with different chemicals (NaOH, CaO, H₂SO₄, or HCl) enhanced solubilization of manure and degradation of glucan/xylan in dairy manure. However, sulfuric acid-based pretreatment resulted in a low anaerobic digestibility, probably due to the sulfur inhibition and side reactions. The pretreatments released 20-40% soluble phosphorus and 9-14% ammonium. However, CaO-based pretreatment resulted in lower orthophosphate releases and struvite precipitation efficiency as calcium reacts with phosphate to form calcium phosphate. Collectively, microwave heating combined with NaOH or HCl led to a high anaerobic digestibility and phosphorus recovery. Using these two chemicals, the performance of microwave- and conventional-heating in thermochemical pretreatment was further compared. The microwave heating resulted in a better performance in terms of COD solubilization, glucan/xylan reduction, phosphorus solubilization and anaerobic digestibility. Lastly, temperature and heating time used in microwave treatment were optimized. The optimal values of temperature and heating time were 147°C and 25.3 min for methane production, and 135°C and 26 min for orthophosphate release, respectively.

Applying manure or slurry directly to the land can contribute to pathogen contamination of land, freshwater and groundwater. Thus it is important to study the fate of pathogens in diary manure anaerobic digestion systems. The goal of the project was to establish a molecular based quantitative method for pathogen identification and quantification, compare the molecular based method with culture based method and study pathogen fate in dairy manure and different anaerobic digesters. Result showed that molecular based method detected more E.coli than the culture based method with less variability. Thermophilic anaerobic digestion can achieve more than 95% pathogen removal rate while mesophilic anaerobic digester had increased E.coli number than fresh manure, indicating temperature is a key factor for pathogen removal.

In general, the overall goal of the study is to develop an integrated dairy manure treatment system. The microwave based pretreatment enhanced the subsequent biogas production and struvite precipitation, and the molecular tool based method provided a more precise and faster way to study the pathogen fate in various anaerobic digestions.



dairy manure, microwave, pre-treatment, pathogen, q-PCR, anaerobic digestion