The reduced footprint of Aerobic Granular Sludge (AGS) systems constitutes a good alternative to conventional treatments, despite their associated drawbacks (long start-up periods and high aeration requirements for granules formation and integrity). This study presents a pulsed aeration regime as a strategy to overcome these problems. Two AGS sequencing batch reactors (SBRs) were operated treating low-strength wastewater (190 mg COD/L) with pulses of 1 s ON/2 s OFF (R1) and continuous aeration (R2). Initially, different superficial gas velocities (SGV) of 3.6 cm/s (R1) and 1.2 cm/s (R2) were imposed for the same airflow (448 L/cycle). The granulation process was completed in 38 days for R1 whereas it took 48 days for R2. Denser and smaller granules were formed with pulsed regime and phosphate accumulating organisms were developed faster. The removal efficiencies were practically the same in both SBRs, being of 85% for COD, 95% for phosphorus and 30% for nitrogen. After granules formation the airflow in both reactors was reduced. For a SGV of 1.2 cm/s both systems behaved similarly. The minimum SGV required to maintain a uniform mixture of the biomass inside the reactor was 1.2 (R1) and 0.5 cm/s (R2), meaning less air consumption in the pulsed system (149 L/cycle) compared to the continuous one (179 L/min). Therefore, pulsed aeration successfully reduced granulation periods and aeration requirements in AGS systems.
- Aerobic granular sludge
- Low-strength wastewater
- Phosphate accumulating organisms
- Pulsed aeration