Separation of volatile fatty acids (VFAs) from fermented wastewater is challenging, due to low VFA concentrations in mineral-rich streams. As a result, separation capacity and selectivity with traditional solvents and adsorbents are both compromised. In this study, using a complex artificial model solution mimicking real fermented wastewaters, it is shown that a simple and robust adsorption-based separation technique can retain a remarkable capacity and selectivity for VFAs. Four types of polystyrene-divinylbenzene-based resins (primary, secondary, and tertiary amine-functionalized, and nonfunctionalized) were examined as the adsorbents. The presence of chloride, sulfate, and phosphate salts resulted in coadsorption of their acidic forms HCl, H2SO4, and H3PO4 on amine-functionalized adsorbents, and severely reduced the VFA capacity. With the nonfunctionalized adsorbent, almost no mineral acid coadsorption was observed. This together with a high total VFA capacity of up to 76 g/kg in equilibrium with the model solution containing a total VFA concentration of 1 wt % resulted in a very high selectivity for the VFAs. Nitrogen-stripping with various temperature profiles was applied to regenerate the adsorbent, and study the potential for fractionation of the VFAs during regeneration. Butyric acid (HBu) was obtained in mole fractions of up to 0.8 using a stepwise increase in the stripping temperature from 25 °C via 120 to 200 °C. During four successive adsorption-regeneration cycles, no reduction in the adsorption capacity was observed.
- Fermented wastewater
- Volatile fatty acids