Filamentous Organisms Degrade Oxygen Transfer Efficiency by Increasing Mixed Liquor Apparent Viscosity: Mechanistic Understanding and Experimental Verification


Recent findings have demonstrated that activated sludge morphology significantly impacts oxygen transfer efficiency (OTE) in the activated sludge process. In this study, we developed a mechanistic understanding of this impact. Mixed liquor samples collected from a domestic wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) were blended with a bulking activated sludge from a bench scale reactor (BSR) cultured on synthetic wastewater to manipulate various morphological parameters such as the settled sludge volume (SV), the sludge volume index (SVI), and the specific filament length (SFL). The filaments that were present in the blended sludges consisted largely of Type 0041 and Type 021N, which are commonly found in WWTPs that treat domestic wastewater. Variations in sludge morphology, as quantified by settled sludge volume after 30 min (SV30), SVI, and SFL, systematically affected the mixed liquor apparent viscosity (μapp), which consequently impacted OTE. An increase in the SFL from 9.61 × 106 μm g−1 to 6.88 × 107 μm g−1 resulted in a 41.4% increase in apparent viscosity and a 24.6% decrease in volumetric mass transfer coefficient (KLa). A new parameter, named the ultimate settleability (SVULT), was developed by curve fitting the SV versus time data and found to relate with μapp through an expanded form of the Einstein Equation for the viscosity. Therefore, SVULT is a corollary for the particle volume fraction that incorporates effects of both the sludge morphology and mass concentration on μapp. Theoretical derivation revealed that an increase in SVULT resulted in an increase in μapp, which reduced oxygen transfer by increasing the air bubble size and reducing refreshment of the liquid at the gas-liquid interface. The KLa was found to be inversely proportional to μapp0.75 through fitting the experimental data with the theoretical model. Using a variance-based global sensitivity analysis, three operating parameters that have the most impact on oxygen transfer were identified: the power input per unit volume, the superficial gas flowrate, and the μapp.


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Research Center/Lab(s)

Center for Research in Energy and Environment (CREE)

Keywords and Phrases

Activated sludge; Apparent viscosity; Filamentous organisms; Morphology; Oxygen transfer efficiency; Ultimate settleability

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

0043-1354; 1879-2448

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2020 Elsevier, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

15 Apr 2020

PubMed ID