The effect of dissolved oxygen on PHB accumulation in activated sludge cultures.Biotechnol Bioeng. 2003 Apr 20; 82(2):238-50.BB
Nitrogen removal from wastewater is often limited by the availability of reducing power to perform denitrification, especially when treating wastewaters with a low carbon:nitrogen ratio. In the increasingly popular sequencing batch reactor (SBR), bacteria have the opportunity to preserve reducing power from incoming chemical oxygen demand (COD) as poly-beta-hydroxybutyrate (PHB). The current study uses laboratory experiments and mathematical modeling in an attempt to generate a better understanding of the effect of oxygen on microbial conversion of COD into PHB. Results from a laboratory SBR with acetate as the organic carbon source showed that the aerobic acetate uptake process was oxygen-dependent, producing higher uptake rates at higher dissolved oxygen (DO) supply rates. However, at the lower DO supply rates (k(L)a 6 to 16 h(-1), 0 mg L(-1) DO), a higher proportion of the substrate was preserved as PHB than at higher DO supply rates (k(L)a 30, 51 h(-1), DO >0.9 mg L(-1)). Up to 77% of the reducing equivalents available from acetate were converted to PHB under oxygen limitation (Y(PHB/Ac) 0.68 Cmol/Cmol), as opposed to only 54% under oxygen-excess conditions (Y(PHB/Ac) 0.48 Cmol/Cmol), where a higher fraction of acetate was used for biomass growth. It was calculated that, by oxygen management during the feast phase, the amount of PHB preserved (1.4 Cmmol L(-1) PHB) accounted for an additional denitrification potential of up to 18 mg L(-1) nitrate-nitrogen. The trends of the effect of oxygen (and hence ATP availability) on PHB accumulation could be reproduced by the simulation model, which was based on biochemical stoichiometry and maximum rates obtained from experiments. Simulated data showed that, at low DO concentrations, the limited availability of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) prevented significant biomass growth and most ATP was used for acetate transport into the cell. In contrast, high DO supply rates provided surplus ATP and hence higher growth rates, resulting in decreased PHB yields. The results suggest that oxygen management is crucial to conserving reducing power during the feast phase of SBR operation, as excessive aeration rates decrease the PHB yield and allow higher biomass growth.