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Molecular characterization of particulate organic matter in full scale anaerobic digesters: An NMR spectroscopy study

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Abstract

This study assesses the molecular characteristics of particulate organic matter (POM) in agricultural and food waste digesters and elucidates the molecular properties of the recalcitrant POM fraction, which remains in the digestate after AD process. Molecular properties of POM in influent (substrate) and effluent (digestate) of seven full-scale AD plants (three agricultural waste and four food waste digesters) were characterized and compared using solid-state 13C cross-polarization magic angle spinning (CP-MAS) and solution-state 1H,13C heteronuclear single-quantum coherence (HSQC) nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Comparison of the POM structural compositions of substrate and digestate from each AD plant revealed an enrichment of protein structures relative to the carbohydrates in most cases, implying a preferential degradation of the carbohydrates over proteins and/or increase of microbial biomass upon AD of agricultural and food wastes. Distinctive molecular structures of labile and recalcitrant fractions of POM, subjected to AD, were identified by comparing the NMR spectra of all substrate and digestate POM. Accordingly, the labile POM fraction in food and agricultural solid wastes is characterized by structural entities of lipids and starch-like carbohydrates, whereas recalcitrant POM structures resemble alkyl and aromatic subunits of amino acids, lignin, and polysaccharides with β-glycosidic linkages. This information serves as a basis to further explore optimization approaches for improving AD of the underutilized POM and the fate of organic matter in digestate-amended arable lands.

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Shakeri Yekta, S., Hedenström, M., Svensson, B. H., Sundgren, I., Dario, M., Enrich-Prast, A., … Björn, A. (2019). Molecular characterization of particulate organic matter in full scale anaerobic digesters: An NMR spectroscopy study. Science of the Total Environment, 685, 1107–1115. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.06.264

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