PREDICTING SYNERGISTIC BEHAVIOR IN ANAEROBIC CO-DIGESTION OF AGRO-INDUSTRIAL WASTE USING MACROMOLECULAR COMPOSITION OF SUBSTRATES
Improving environmental sustainability in energy production and waste management are of critical importance. Anaerobic digestion (AD) uses microbes to biologically decompose organic waste and produce biogas, which can be used for various forms of sustainable energy. It can be particularly valuable for livestock facilities considering AD of their manure, and potentially other feedstocks as well, a process known as co-digestion. Improved understanding of co-digestion of agro-industrial feedstocks is critical for these facilities. Understanding the macromolecular composition (carbohydrate, protein, and lipid portions) of potential AD feedstocks has the potential to provide important information for predicting important parameters of AD behavior. However, the stability of these macromolecules in AD samples during long-term storage must be confirmed. Furthermore, synergistic and antagonistic impacts of co-digestion on methane production and digestate composition need to be more thoroughly explored.
This dissertation investigates the impact of storage at refrigeration temperatures (4°C) for up to one-year on the macromolecular composition of various agro-industrial feedstocks (beef manure, starch, slaughterhouse waste, soap stock, and filter press slurry) and anaerobic co-digestion samples. These same feedstocks were co-digested with manure in batch digesters at different proportions, using two or three feedstocks to determine possible synergistic effects.
The findings show that minimal macromolecular degradation occurred in AD samples during storage at refrigeration temperatures for up to one-year. A major exception was samples containing high concentrations of readily biodegradable starches, which did experience >50% carbohydrate degradation. This indicates a need for methodological rigor during sample storage and reporting experimental design.
Furthermore, the co-digestion experiments demonstrated frequent improvements or synergy in specific methane yield, methane production rate, and a wide variety of physical and chemical parameters in the digester effluent. Specific methane yield was shown to be at least additive, with improvement ranging from 3-168%. Some improvements in kinetic performance were also observed and quantified. Statistical results suggest that influent characteristics could be useful as predictors for methane production. This research could catalyze additional work needed to optimize co-digestion feeding strategies for full-scale digesters.
National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2020-38640-31522 through the North Central Region SARE program under project number GNC21-334
National Science Foundation under the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) under grant number DGE-1842166
- Doctor of Philosophy
- Agricultural and Biological Engineering
- West Lafayette