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Developing volatile fatty acids (VFAs) platform using membrane bioreactors

This project aims in converting anaerobic digestion from a single product (methane or biogas) to a biorefinery by merging volatile fatty acids (VFAs) platform and membrane bioreactors (MBR).

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VFAs are intermediate products during anaerobic digestion. VFA platform is a relatively new concept and MBR are used principally for wastewater treatments. This project is a novel approach to apply MBR to treat waste slurries in high solid concentration in anaerobic digestion and to extract VFA at high rate and yield. In this work, different configurations of MBRs will be used to efficiently tackle bioprocessing of technically and scientifically challenging waste substrates including development of membranes and MBR modules, and continuous VFA production and developing bioproducts from VFAs in MBR.

In this investigation, different submerged and side-stream membrane modules will be designed, developed and used in acidogenesis process in single or several interconnected MBR stages. Tubular side-stream modules plus two different generations of submerged integrated permeate channel (IPC) flat sheet membrane panels for pressure-driven product separation and concentration-driven diffusion-based VFA production and recovery will be developed and employed. The VFAs recovered in MBRs is then used in fed-batch and continuous cultivations in downstream bioreactors