Bio-hydrogen Production from Sewage Sludge: Screening for Pretreatments and Semi-continuous Reactor Operation

  • Mohamed El-QelishEmail author
  • Pritha Chatterjee
  • Paolo Dessì
  • Marika Kokko
  • Fatma El-Gohary
  • Mohamed Abo-Aly
  • Jukka Rintala
Original Paper


The high volumes of sewage sludge produced have raised interests for simultaneous treatment and clean energy production, e.g. in the form of hydrogen. Pretreatment of sewage sludge is required to enhance microbial degradation and in turn hydrogen yield from sewage sludge. The potential of five substrate pretreatments, individually and in combinations, to increase biohydrogen production from mixed primary and secondary sewage sludge at four incubation pH (5, 7, 9, and 11) was studied in batch assays. Alkali + ultrasonication pretreatment increased the hydrogen production almost seven times (0.35 mmol H2/g VS) compared to untreated sewage sludge at initial pH 11. In general, higher hydrogen yields and lower acetate concentrations were obtained under alkaline conditions (pH 9 and 11), being more favorable for protein degradation and not favorable for hydrogen consumption via homoacetogenesis. Subsequently, fermentation of alkali + ultrasonication pretreated sewage sludge in a semi-continuous stirred tank reactor (CSTR) produced a maximum hydrogen yield of 0.1 mmol H2/g VS, three times higher than the yield obtained from alkali pretreated sludge. The gas produced in the CSTRs contained a low concentration of CO2 (< 5%), and is thus easily upgradable to biohydrogen.

Graphic Abstract


Alkali treatment Continuously stirred tank reactor (CSTR) Dark fermentation Pretreatment Sewage sludge Ultrasonication 



The financial support received from the Finnish National Agency for Education (Finnish Government Scholarship Pool) and Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research of Egypt (MOHESR) is duly acknowledged. The authors gratefully thank the Viinikanlahti municipal wastewater treatment plant (Tampere, Finland) for providing the raw materials.

Supplementary material

12649_2019_743_MOESM1_ESM.docx (102 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 101 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Engineering and Natural SciencesTampere UniversityTampereFinland
  2. 2.Water Pollution Research DepartmentNational Research CentreCairoEgypt
  3. 3.Department of Civil EngineeringIndian Institute of Technology HyderabadKandiIndia
  4. 4.National University of Ireland GalwayGalwayIreland
  5. 5.Chemistry Department, Faculty of ScienceAin Shams UniversityCairoEgypt

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