Environmental analytical methods

Determining short chain fatty acids in sewage sludge hydrolysate:A comparison of three analytical methods and investigation of sample storage effects

Victor Ibrahim , Tobias Hey , Karin Jönsson


Received June 19, 2013,Revised October 29, 2013, Accepted , Available online March 24, 2014

Volume 26,2014,Pages 926-933

In anaerobic digestion, the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) can be beneficial or harmful to the overall process, depending on the concentration of accumulated acids. Therefore, the accurate determination of the SCFA concentration in both fresh and stored sludge hydrolysates is important. To select a suitable method for monitoring SCFAs during the anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge, the accuracy of three available analytical methods, including 5 pH point acid titration (TITRA5), gas chromatography (GC), and spectrophotometry, were compared in the present study. The results revealed that TITRA5 and GC displayed better agreement in the achieved measurements and higher precision and accuracy than the spectrophotometric assay, as supported by the application of different statistical models. TITRA5 excelled in titrating unfiltered hydrolysate while simultaneously measuring the alkalinity, whereas the GC method provided detailed information on the contribution of different fatty acids to the total acidity. In contrast, the spectrophotometric assay suffered from many forms of interference, depending on the sample's matrix. SCFA production followed the pattern of enzymatic reactions and fitted the Michaelis-Menten model. In addition to promoting TITRA5 as an accurate and robust analytical tool for routine SCFA analyses, this comparative study also demonstrated the possibility of storing hydrolysate samples at different temperatures and durations without altering the SCFA measurements.

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