From waste to resource: Training young researchers on developing innovative, circular solutions for wastewater treatment sludge - INCLUE

DC4: Fate of micro-pollutants during thermal pre-treatment of sludge

Project title: Fate of micro-pollutants during thermal pre-treatment of sludge (WP1)

Host Institution: TU Delft

Country: Netherlands

Supervisor: Merle de Kreuk (PhD Promoter)

Objectives: to optimise thermal hydrolytic sludge treatment efficiency by modelling and predicting the changes in (bio)availability of dedicated pollutants in a wide temperature interval.

DC4 will investigate the changes in the sludge structure (EPS formation, disintegration of organics) and changes and fate (liquid solid phase) of the micropollutants (i.e., PFAS, endocrine disruptors, microplastics) during thermal treatment over a wide temperature range (70-300°C) and for different reaction times (10-240 min). Sludges that will be studied are different types of sewage sludge (activated sludge, aerobic granular sludge and digestate). DC4 will model and predict the degradation and fate of these pollutants based on main pre-treatment process parameters (temperature, pH, sludge origin) and will select the best temperature range for sludge treatment in order to minimise negative effects of sludge application in agriculture with respect to the pollutants under scrutiny. DC4 will carry out a full energetic evaluation of the most optimal process conditions selected and carry out pot trials simulating soil application of the obtained sludge/digestate.

Expected Results: An optimised strategy of thermal sewage sludge treatment for the recovery of a micro-pollutant free fraction to be used in agriculture as soil enhancer

Enrolment in Doctoral degree(s): Graduate School of faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences (CEG), TU Delft (NL) – see overall PhD requirements at Tu Delft

Planned secondments:

  • Torwash (Sup.: J. Pels): M20-22 (3 months): identification of (reformed) pollutants in the produced liquid and solid fractions at a pilot or full scale TORWASH sludge treatment installation.
  • Inagro (Sup.: J. Leenknegt): M28-31 (4 months): Agricultural application of thermally treated sludge/digestate – impact on soil fertility and crop growth.

Candidate requirements:
  • You hold a master’s degree in chemical engineering, bioscience engineering, environmental engineering or equivalent.
  • You are interested in thermal hydrolysis processes, energy balances as well as biological wastewater treatment.
  • You are committed to high quality research.
  • You have good laboratory skills, and are able to develop new measuring techniques.
  • You are able to analyze your results on a scientific level and you can also translate these results into a practical application.
  • You speak and write fluent English.
  • You are an enthusiastic and motivated person, ready to participate in personal training, international travel and public awareness activities.