Anaerobic digestion of indigenous Scenedesmus spp. microalgae was studied in continuous lab-scale anaerobic reactors at different temperatures (35 °C and 55 °C), and sludge retention time - SRT (50 and 70 days). Mesophilic digestion was performed in a continuous stirred-tank reactor (CSTR) and in an anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR). Mesophilic CSTR operated at 50 days SRT only achieved 11.9% of anaerobic biodegradability whereas in the AnMBR at 70 days SRT and 50 days HRT reached 39.5%, which is even higher than the biodegradability achieved in the thermophilic CSTR at 50 days SRT (30.4%). Microbial analysis revealed a high abundance of cellulose-degraders in both reactors, AnMBR (mainly composed of 9.4% Bacteroidetes, 10.1% Chloroflexi, 8.0% Firmicutes and 13.2% Thermotogae) and thermophilic CSTR (dominated by 23.8% Chloroflexi and 12.9% Firmicutes). However, higher microbial diversity was found in the AnMBR compared to the thermophilic CSTR which is related to the SRT. since high SRT promoted low growth-rate microorganisms, increasing the hydrolytic potential of the system. These results present the membrane technology as a promising approach to revalue microalgal biomass, suggesting that microalgae biodegradability and consequently the methane production could be improved operating at higher SRT.
Keywords: Anaerobic digestion; Biodegradability; Membrane technology; Microalgae; Microbial analysis; Scenedesmus spp.
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