Microwave pre-treatment of model food waste to produce short chain organic acids and ethanol via anaerobic fermentation

Serena Simonetti, Claudia Fernandez Martin, Davide Dionisi* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


As an alternative to conventional anaerobic digestion for methane production, anaerobic fermentation (AF) of organic matter can produce short chain organic acids (SCOAs) in a sustainable way. This study investigated the effect of microwave (MW) pre-treatment on the AF of model food waste to SCOAs and ethanol. The MW pre-treatment was investigated at three temperatures (120, 150 and 180 °C) and residence times (2, 5 and 8 min). The MW treatment gave a significant reduction in the pH and volatile suspended solids (VSS). The largest reduction in the VSS was 20%, indicating solubilisation of the organic matter. The latter was also confirmed by the increase, although it was not statistically significant, in the soluble chemical oxygen demand (COD) and soluble carbohydrates. In the fermentation batch tests, the total product yield was higher (17.5% COD COD−1) than for the untreated substrate (11.1% COD COD−1). An electricity price of GBP 0.06 kWh−1 would correspond to the market value of the additional SCOAs produced with the pre-treated substrate. Although this price is lower than the current business price of electricity in the UK, the MW pre-treatment could become economically feasible with scale-up effects and by using free excess electricity coming from renewable resources.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1176
Number of pages14
Issue number6
Early online date12 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

This study was funded by LEVERHULME TRUST. Serena Simonetti, a Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Scholar, is part of the 15 PhD scholarships of the “Leverhulme Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Production of Chemicals and Materials” at the University of Aberdeen (Scotland, UK).


  • anaerobic fermentation
  • food waste
  • pre-treatment
  • microwave
  • SCOAs
  • anaerobic digestion


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