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Liming Pretreatment Reduces Sludge Build-Up on

the Dryer Wall during Thermal Drying

Huan Li , Shuxin Zou & Chenchen Li

To cite this article: Huan Li , Shuxin Zou & Chenchen Li (2012) Liming Pretreatment Reduces
Sludge Build-Up on the Dryer Wall during Thermal Drying, Drying Technology, 30:14, 1563-1569,
DOI: 10.1080/07373937.2012.697947

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Published online: 13 Nov 2012.

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Drying Technology, 30: 15631569, 2012
Copyright # 2012 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 0737-3937 print=1532-2300 online
DOI: 10.1080/07373937.2012.697947

Liming Pretreatment Reduces Sludge Build-Up on the Dryer

Wall during Thermal Drying
Huan Li, Shuxin Zou, and Chenchen Li
Graduate School at Shenzhen, Tsinghua University, Shenzhen, China

Much attention has been paid to improving drying

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In the course of sludge thermal drying, the sludge that sticks to the efciency, decreasing energy consumption, and ensuring
heated surfaces of drying equipment causes deterioration of drying production security during sludge thermal drying.[25]
efciency and safety. The ability of alkaline pretreatment to reduce Sludge build-up on the inside walls of drying equipment
sludge build-up on dryer walls during convective drying processes during sludge thermal drying[69] is another concern. Sludge
was investigated. The sludge build-up was measured as the residual
mass on an iron plate after parts of the sludge were scraped off the adhesion decreases the efciency of heat transfer, reduces
plate; the device used simulated the scraping process in drying the life of drying equipment, and increases the risk of
equipment. The results showed that the sludge build-up on the plate explosion due to sludge over-drying.[10] When the sludge
increased at rst and then decreased as the sludge water content water content is decreased to some degree, the physical
decreased during thermal drying. The maximum amount of sludge state of the sludge changes from a liquid suspension to a
build-up occurred when the sludge water content was about
5560%. Liming pretreatment enhanced sludge cohesion, hydrolyzed cohesive=adhesive paste (sticky zone) just prior to granu-
adhesive organic substances, increased the inorganic mineral content lation.[9,1113] In the sticky zone, sludge turns into a paste,
of the sludge and, accordingly, reduced sludge build-up. When the and it then easily sticks onto the inside walls of drying equip-
dose of Ca(OH)2 was 5% of dry solids (5% DS), the sludge build-up ment. The total sludge solids that remain on dryer walls are
was almost negligible and the average drying rate improved by about the result of both adhesion and cohesion. Adhesion arises
30%. CaO pretreatment was also very effective in preventing sludge
build-up, but its effect on the sludge drying rate was not obvious at the during the contact of the very rst layer of sludge with the
same dosage. Compared with Ca(OH)2 and CaO, NaOH did not dryer walls, whereas cohesion occurs as a function of the
reduce sludge build-up effectively or improve the sludge drying rate. internal properties of the sludge. The organic fraction and
water content of the sludge are recognized as intrinsic fac-
Keywords Adhesion; Drying; Liming pretreatment; Sewage tors impacting the sludges physical consistency as demon-
sludge strated by Ruiz et al.[14,15] and Peeters et al.[9,13] Recently,
Peeters proposed a mechanism for the existence of the
INTRODUCTION sludges sticky phase during the course of drying in relation
Excess sludge is one of the main by-products of to the physical sludge properties.[9]
wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), and it is usually A number of methods have been used to prevent sludge
rst concentrated and mechanically dewatered. The water build-up on dryer walls. A portion of already dried sludge
content of dewatered sludge cakes commonly ranges is frequently back-mixed with raw sludge to bypass the
between 75% and 85%. This high water content makes sticky zone.[16] The returned dried sludge is generally one
the dewatered sludge unsuitable for direct landll, inciner- to two times the weight of the raw sludge. However,
ation, or composting without pretreatment. Hence, sludge considerable energy has to be consumed to reheat the
drying constitutes an essential pretreatment after mechan- returned dried sludge and blend it with the raw sludge.
ical dewatering. Decreasing the water content to below The treatment capacity of the drying equipment is accord-
10% reduces the mass and volume of sludge and thereby ingly reduced. Special mechanical accessory devices, such
reduces the costs of storage, handling, and transport, as as paddles and scrapers, are also used in drying equipment
well as transforms sludge into an acceptable combustible to remove the sludge from the heating surfaces or inside
material. Furthermore, if the drying temperature is suf- walls. These accessory devices, which increase the com-
ciently high, the dried sludge produced is a pathogen-free, plexity of drying equipment as well as the investment and
stabilized material.[1] maintenance costs, cannot completely eliminate the sludge
adhesion phenomenon.
Correspondence: Huan Li, Graduate School at Shenzhen, Researchers have found a few new methods for prevent-
Tsinghua University, L-205B, Tsinghua Campus, University Town, ing or mitigating sludge build-up on dryer walls during
Shenzhen 518055, China; E-mail:

1564 LI ET AL.

thermal drying. Ma et al.[17] used a polarized electric eld 240 rpm. The doses of the alkaline reagents were 1% to 5%
to reduce sludge adhesion through contact drying of a of the sludge dry solids (DS) by weight (1% DS, 3% DS, 5%
sludge cake deposited on a heated metal plate serving as DS). For comparison, the sludge samples without alkaline
the cathode. Peeters et al.[9,18] found the intrinsic stickiness pretreatment were also stirred for 10 minutes.
of sludge could be reduced by adding pure polyaluminium
chloride (PACl) to waste sludge. The addition of alkaline Sludge Drying Experiments
chemicals, mostly lime, as a stabilization method is widely Before the sludge drying experiments, the sludge sam-
used. Liming raises the sludge pH. At a pH of 12 or higher, ples were spread on a square iron plate (10 cm  10 cm 
pathogens and microorganisms can be either inactivated or 0.09 cm), with the help of a plastic circular frame (
destroyed, and odor can also be reduced when adequate 9 cm  0.5 cm). About 35 g of the sludge sample were added
mixing and sufciently long contact times are realized.[19] to the plastic frame on the iron plate, then the top surface
The addition of lime also contributes to increased sludge of the sludge was manually planished with a plastic plate
dryness due to the lime hydration reaction. For limed and, nally, the plastic frame was removed. The sludge
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sludge, drying is also a valid way to obtain a stable, granu- cake remaining on the iron plate had a diameter of 9 cm
lar, and marketable product to use as an agricultural soil and a thickness of 0.5 cm. The surface roughness of the
modier.[20] However, studies to date on the inuence of iron plate was measured with a 3D white-light interfering
liming treatment on sludge thermal drying have been very prolometer (MicroXAM), made by KLA-Tencor,
limited.[2023] U.S.A., and was found to be 0.8 mm.
Because of a lack of knowledge on liming pretreatment To dry the sludge samples, the plate with the sludge cake
for sludge drying, this work was aimed at studying the was put into an air-drying oven and convectively heated
effects of liming pretreatment on sludge build-up on dryer under 120 C isothermal conditions. After a certain drying
walls and also on drying efciency during thermal drying. time, the iron plate was taken out for measurement of
Systematic experiments on sludge thermal drying were the sludge water content and the sludge build-up on the
conducted under conditions of convective heating to inves- iron plate. Next, the plate was cleaned for the following
tigate the characteristics of sludge build-up on dryer walls. test. A series of tests were carried out with different drying
The effects of liming pretreatments were investigated, times and, hence, a range of different sludge water
based on the comparison of Ca(OH)2, CaO, and NaOH contents.
Measurement of the Sludge Build-Up on the Dryer Walls
MATERIALS AND METHODS The method of measuring the sludge build-up on the
Sludge Samples iron plate simulated the scraping process used in drying
The sewage sludge used in this study was collected from equipment. Once the sludge was dried to some degree,
two WWTPs. In plant A, a biological aerated lter process the iron plate was turned upside down so that the plate sur-
was used to clean the wastewater. The excess sludge was face with adherent sludge was facing downward (Fig. 1 and
thickened, conditioned with polyacrylamide (PAM), and
dewatered by centrifugation. The water content of the
dewatered sludge (sludge A) was 73.9% and the organic
content was 51.5%. In plant B, an anaerobic-anoxic-oxic
process was applied and the excess sludge was thickened,
conditioned with PAM, and dewatered by belt mechanical
compression. The water content of the dewatered sludge
(sludge B) was 83.6% and the organic content was 61.8%.
Sludge water content and organic content were measured
according to standard methods.[24] Sludge A was used for
liming pretreatment and thermal drying experiments.
Sludge B was used for comparison with sludge A during
thermal drying without pretreatment.

Sludge Liming Pretreatment

The alkaline chemicals used in the experiments were
Ca(OH)2, CaO, and NaOH. The sludge samples and
alkaline chemicals were agitated for 10 min in a 1-L plastic
beaker with a double spiral stirrer at a controlled speed of FIG. 1. A schematic drawing of the experimental device.
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FIG. 3. The mass build-up of sludge A, sludge B, and sludge A with

Ca(OH)2 pretreatment on the iron plate during thermal drying (the lines
are to guide the eye).

of sludge remained on the iron plate because the large

amount of water reduced the adhesive forces between the
sludge and the plate surface. When the sludge water con-
FIG. 2. The photograph of the experimental device.
tent decreased further during the drying process, the
amount of solids build-up on the iron plate (dryer wall)
Fig. 2). One edge of the plate was supported and xed by a increased. With decreasing sludge water content, more
clamp that could be rotated around its center. The opposite adhesive substances were in contact with the plate surface.
edge of the plate was supported with a stainless blade. The According to Peeters,[9] the increasing stickiness of drying
blade was perpendicular to the plate and it was moved sludge can be attributed to the increasing viscosity of the
horizontally slowly and evenly from one edge of the plate biopolymers (EPS, extracellular polymeric substances sur-
to the opposite edge. During this process, the sludge stuck rounding the micro-organisms in the activated sludge) as
onto the iron plate was partly scraped off. The residual a result of the lower water content. The resulting enhanced
sludge on the plate was weighed and taken as the nal mass adhesive force caused more sludge to remain on the plate
of sludge build-up. Because the iron plate could be rotated after the scraping of the blade. When the water content
as the blade moved horizontally, the scraping force was of the sludge was about 5560%, the amount of sludge
mainly dependent on the mass of the iron plate (65 g) build-up on the plate reached its maximum. According to
and the sludge cake (35 g). In each test, the scraping force the adsorption theory of adhesives,[25] this adhesion could
changed slightly because some sludge would detach from mainly be attributed to intermolecular forces and, there-
the iron plate, but the force was approximately the same fore, sufcient contact of the adhesive and adherend is
for different tests. By doing so, the sludge build-up mass considered to be very important. Water can wet the surface
could be compared under different drying conditions. of a metallic adherend and enhance the contact of the
adhesive and adherend surfaces. Hence, the adhesive force
was enhanced by sufcient interface inltration when the
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION water content reached 55-60%. Simultaneously, cohesive
Characteristics of Sludge Build-Up on the Plate forces also increased when the sludge became a sticky
During the drying processes, including the mentioned paste.[11] Thus, more sludge remained on the iron plate
scraping procedure, the mass of sludge build-up on the iron after the plate was scraped. Beyond the range of 55-60%
plate varied with the sludge water content as depicted in water content, where the sludge under study behaves as
Fig. 3. The observed dependency (Fig. 3) of the raw sludge the most stickiest, the sludge build-up on the iron plate
stickiness on the sludge water content is comparable as was clearly reduced. Due to the further water removal from
demonstrated by Peeters et al.[13] When the water content the sludge, the spreadability of the sludge onto the iron
of the sludge was higher than 70%, only a minor amount plate (i.e., the dryer wall) was reduced, more voids occurred
1566 LI ET AL.

at the interface of the sludge and the plate, and the without pretreatment, the residual sludge was reduced by
adhesive forces decreased sharply.[9] When the water con- 90%, and it was almost negligible when the sludge was pre-
tent of the sludge was nally at about 30%, the dried sludge treated with 5% DS Ca(OH)2.
was easily scraped off the plate surface. The efciency of sludge thermal drying was also
In addition to the adhesive force, sludge cohesion is improved with an increasing dose of Ca(OH)2 (Fig. 4).
another factor determining the amount of sludge build-up When the dose of Ca(OH)2 was 5% DS, the time spent
on the plate during the scraping processes under the experi- on drying the sludge to a water content of 10% could be
mental conditions. Sludge adhesion is the rst essential reduced by 45 min. Under thermal drying conditions, alka-
condition for sludge build-up, as it provides a surface layer line pretreatment can disintegrate sludge zooglea, or even
of sludge on the plate. Sludge cohesive forces are internal cells, and expose the inner water. This makes the water
forces that promote the accumulation of additional layers easier to release from the sludge. An increase in the Ca2
of sludge on the surface layer, and they can thereby cause dose was also helpful for sludge dewatering. The divalent
more sludge to remain on the plate (i.e., the dryer wall). metal ions (Ca2, Mg2) play an important role in linking
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The sludge water content and adhesive organic substances different sludge particles, whereas the monovalent metal
are also key factors for sludge cohesion during thermal ions (Na, K) can replace Ca2 or Mg2 and break up
drying. A suitable water content allows sufcient contact the structure of sludge ocs.[31,32] Hence, the increased
between sludge adhesive substances and can enhance the Ca2 content resulting from the addition of Ca(OH)2 can
cohesive forces, whereas a water content level that is too enhance the structure of sludge ocs and improve sludge
high makes the adhesive substances move away from each dewaterability. The inorganic mineral content, which
other. As well as organic occulants from the dewatering increased under the experimental conditions, was certainly
processes, proteins and polysaccharides are recognized as helpful for sludge dewatering. Hence, the liming pretreat-
the main adhesive substances,[2628] and they are about ment with 5% DS Ca(OH)2 was conducive to both reducing
7080 wt.% of the total extracellular polymeric substances sludge adhesion and improving drying efciency.
(EPS) in sludge.[2931] Obviously, more adhesive substances
can lead to a higher cohesive force and more sludge
build-up on the plate. The inuence of adhesive substances Analysis of the Causes of Liming Effects
can be found by comparison of sludge A and B (Fig. 3). Under thermal drying conditions, alkaline treatment can
The organic content of sludge A was signicantly lower cause disintegration of sludge zooglea and microbial cells,
than that of sludge B, which generally meant that the the release of the inner organic substances and enhance
content of adhesive substances in sludge A was also lower. organic polymer hydrolysis.[33] Accordingly, thermal
Accordingly, the mass of sludge A build-up on the plate alkaline treatment is sometimes used as a disintegration
was less under the same drying conditions. Considering pretreatment before sludge dewatering[34] or anaerobic
the origin of sludge A was different from sludge B, their digestion.[35] When the higher molecular weight organics,
drying behaviors were possibly also impacted by other including polysaccharides and proteins, are decomposed
characteristics,[14] such as the different compositions of
their organic fractions.

Effects of Ca(OH)2 Pretreatment

To avoid the build-up of sludge on the dryer wall after
scraping, it is necessary to reduce the adhesive force
between the sludge and the dryer wall. The degradation
of adhesive substances under thermal alkaline treatment
and the increase in inorganic mineral substances can both
reduce sludge adhesion. Thus, Ca(OH)2 pretreatment was
proposed and tested for sludge A (Fig. 3). During the
thermal drying of the sludge pretreated with 1% Ca(OH)2,
the mass of sludge build-up on the iron plate increased at
rst and then decreased with decreasing water content of
the sludge. The maximum sludge build-up occurred at a
water content of about 60%. The variation in the residual
sludge mass was similar with that during the thermal dry-
ing of the raw sludge A. With an increasing Ca(OH)2 dose
(3% and 5%), the amount of residual sludge on the iron FIG. 4. The effect of Ca(OH)2 pretreatment on the drying efciency of
plate clearly decreased. Compared with the drying process sludge A during convective thermal drying.

into lower molecular weight compounds, the levels of

adhesive substances in the sludge decrease and sludge
build-up on the plate are accordingly reduced. On the other
hand, the increase of inorganic mineral substances in the
sludge can contribute to reducing the stickiness of the
sludge and improving its drying performance. The inor-
ganic substances include CaCO3, generated from Ca(OH)2
and CO2, and hydrated calcium silicate and hydrated cal-
cium aluminate, generated from Ca(OH)2, active silica,
and alumina.[36] These mineral substances can change the
sludge texture and thereby increase sludge cohesion, which
can partly counterbalance the sludge adhesiveness.[20]
In order to compare the effects of thermal alkaline
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hydrolysis and increased inorganic content, NaOH pre-

treatment and CaO pretreatment were both used for sludge
thermal drying. Compared with Ca(OH)2, NaOH provides
a stronger alkaline condition in the sludge, which enhances
the thermal alkaline hydrolysis of organic substances. On FIG. 6. The effects of CaO and NaOH pretreatments on the drying
the other hand, the increased level of inorganic mineral efciency of sludge A during convective thermal drying.
substances resulting from NaOH pretreatment was less
than that from Ca(OH)2. CaO pretreatment also created pretreatment reduced sludge build-up on the plate during
alkaline conditions, but these were weaker than those using the subsequent thermal drying, and this decrement in
NaOH pretreatment. As CaO has a lower molecular weight sludge build-up became larger when the NaOH dose was
than Ca(OH)2, the added CaO leads to a higher inorganic increased. However, the decrement was less than that when
mineral content than Ca(OH)2 if their doses are the same using a Ca(OH)2 pretreatment at the same dose of 3% DS
weight percentage of sludge dry solids. The sludge tempera- or 5% DS. CaO pretreatment caused a much greater
ture rise resulting from the CaO hydration reaction was decrease in sludge build-up on the dryer wall than NaOH
almost negligible with thermal drying at 120 C. Thus, the pretreatment, and was also better than Ca(OH)2 pretreat-
two mechanisms of thermal alkaline hydrolysis and ment at the 1% and 3% doses (depicted in Fig. 3). With
increased inorganic content were able to be evaluated by regard to their effects on reducing sludge build-up on the
comparison of NaOH, CaO, and Ca(OH)2 pretreatments. plate, the ranking of the three chemicals was CaO >
The inuences of NaOH and CaO pretreatments on Ca(OH)2 > NaOH. It was deduced that the increase in
sludge adhesion are shown in Fig. 5. The NaOH inorganic mineral substances played a more important role
in reducing adherent sludge compared with the thermal
alkaline hydrolyses of adhesive substances.
The effects of NaOH and CaO pretreatments on sludge
drying efciency are shown in Fig. 6. Increased doses (3%
and 5%) improved the sludge drying efciency. The posi-
tive effect of the addition of CaO on sludge drying is also
demonstrated by Huron et al.[20] They found that CaO
pretreatment with a dose of 19% DS reduced the drying
time by 25% when the sludge reached 90% DS. However,
the improvement in sludge drying efciency was not obvi-
ous compared with that of Ca(OH)2 pretreatment, as
depicted in Fig. 4. When the dose of CaO and NaOH
was 1% DS, the drying efciency was even lower than that
without any pretreatment. On the whole, Ca(OH)2 pre-
treatment was the most effective for the improvement of
sludge thermal drying.

FIG. 5. The mass build-up of sludge A with CaO or NaOH pretreatment Water content is the key factor impacting sludge
on the iron plate during convective thermal drying (the lines are to guide build-up on dryer walls (experimentally simulated with an
the eye). iron plate) during thermal drying. The mass of sludge
1568 LI ET AL.

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sed from 80% to 60%, reached its maximum when the water sewage sludge: An important step in waste disposal. Water Science
and Technology 1990, 22(12), 5763.
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walls, and sludge with a high organic content stuck more vated sludge. Environmental Engineering Science 2011, 28(1), 8185.
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readily on the dryer wall. hydro-textural characteristics of sewage sludge during drying.
Alkaline pretreatment hydrolyses sludge adhesive sub- Separation and Purication Technology 2008, 61(2), 204210.
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science and technology research and development fund Bench and full-scale studies for odor control from lime stabilized
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