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Facts at your Fingertips: Activated Sludge Process

By Scott Jenkins, Chemical Engineering magazine |

The activated sludge process (ASP) is designed to speed up the rate of decomposition of waste material in water. First developed in 1914, it remains an important means of treating both municipal and industrial wastewaters. This one-page reference provides information on the key process components and operating parameters of the ASP. Role of microbes and enzymes The ASP involves the creation and management of a human-engineered and managed ecosystem of desired microbial populations that convert biodegradable organic substances in the wastewater inlet stream into CO2 and new biomass. The term “activated sludge” refers to the particles produced in wastewater by the growth of organisms in aeration tanks. It differs from primary sludge in that the sludge particles contain many living organisms that feed on the incoming wastewater. Activated sludge consists of a mixed community of microorganisms, 95% of which are a variety of (mostly aerobic) species of bacteria. Activated sludge also contains significant populations of fungi, protozoa and higher forms of invertebrates. At the level of actual biodegradation reactions, two categories of enzymes are involved — namely extra- and intracellular enzymes. Extracellular enzymes are excreted…
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