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Numerical modelling of unconfined gas mixing of municipal wastewater sludge in anaerobic sludge digesters using the Lattice-Boltzmann Method

Project Description

Applications are invited for a 3-year PhD studentship to be held at the School of Engineering, University of Bradford.

The by-product of wastewater treatment, sludge, is most commonly treated via mesophilic anaerobic digestion, in which sludge is mixed with anaerobic bacteria to degrade biodegradable material and produce a methane-rich biogas. Biogas can then be harnessed via combined heat and power technology for energy recovery. Whilst water companies initially implemented the processes for sludge stabilization, the current focus on the role of renewables in securing our energy future means that there still remains a pressing need to optimize digester design and mixing to maximize energy recovery.

Mixing is crucial to digester performance. This studentship will support ongoing work on the EPSRC-funded project “CoMAnDO: Computational Methods for Anaerobic Digestion Optimization” that is employing the highly innovative approach of coupled hydrodynamic/anaerobic digestion numerical modelling to identify mixing regimes and associated flow patterns that optimise biological activity and biogas output, while minimising mixing energy input, for anaerobic sludge digesters operating with unconfined gas mixing of municipal wastewater sludge. The numerical work is to be performed using the Lattice-Boltzmann Method (LBM).

This PhD project will be composed of three phases:

1. Calibration. The candidate will liaise with an existing international partner institution to obtain data from laboratory batch tests with standardized synthetic sludge. The data will be used to inform a biokinetic model specific for the anaerobic digestion of synthetic sludge through a calibration procedure consisting of a protocol or linear regressions for relevant biokinetic coefficients.
2. Validation. The candidate will work on, and extend, a pre-existing LB model, which couples hydrodynamics and biokinetics. The biokinetic part will be adapted to reproduce the calibrated biokinetic model with the assistance of another international partner institution with expertise in LB modelling. The model will be validated against experimental data.
3. Application. The candidate will apply the validated model to a full-scale design. Different scenarios will be investigated, and recommendations to enhance biogas yield will be traced.

Funding Notes

The studentship fully covers University tuition fees (at EU/UK level) and provides a tax-free bursary of £14,777 per year.

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