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Mechanism of aerobic biological destabilisation of wool scour effluent emulsions

Poole, A.J., Cord-Ruwisch, R. and Jones, F.W. (2005) Mechanism of aerobic biological destabilisation of wool scour effluent emulsions. Water Research, 39 (12). pp. 2756-2762.

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Wool scouring effluent is a highly polluted industrial wastewater in which the main pollutant, wool wax, is held in a stable oil-in-water emulsion by non-ionic detergent. The use of microbial action to cause emulsion destabilisation has been proposed as a new treatment strategy for this effluent stream. This strategy aims at improving aerobic treatment performance by physically removing the high-COD, slowly bio-degradable wool wax from the system without bio-degradation. The mechanism by which an aerobic-mixed culture destabilises the wool scouring effluent emulsion was investigated. Our results show that destabilisation is due to partial bio-degradation of both the scouring detergent and the wool wax. Cleavage of the wool wax esters was the first stage in wax degradation, when 40-50% of wax was de-emulsified. Over the same period, detergent degradation was low, at 7-21%. With further incubation, detergent degradation increased, aiding further breakdown of the emulsion. The degradation of the detergent, a nonylphenol ethoxylate, resulted in both a reduction in molar concentration (of up to 82%) and a shortening of the ethoxylate chain length. The latter reduced the hydrophile-lipophile balance (HLB) from 12 to approximately 7, thereby reducing the ability of the residual detergent to stabilise the emulsion. Analysis of the emulsified and de-emulsified wax fractions could not identify a group of compounds that were preferentially de-emulsified based on molecular weight or polarity. These findings will assist in using a de-emulsification strategy in both existing and new treatment systems in order to save on aeration costs and treatment times for biological treatment of this highly polluted wastewater.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Copyright: Crown Copyright © 2005 Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved
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