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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Morphological characterisation of ash particles from co-combustion of sewage sludge and wheat straw with X-ray microtomography

Strandberg, Anna; Skoglund, Nils; Thyrel, Mikael


Combustion of phosphorus-rich residual streams can produce nutrient-rich ashes and these can be used either in further processing or as materials for direct nutrient recycling. The latter requires knowledge on morphological parameters of such ash particles that may impact plant growth, nutrient availability, and soil physical properties. The present work aims to determine the porosity, pore size, and specific surface area of ash particles, and discuss these properties in light of literature concerning interaction with soil water and plant roots. Bottom ash particles from combustion of sewage sludge and wheat straw and their co-combustion were analysed with X-ray microtomography. Image analysis provided information on morphology, specific surface area, porosity, and pore structure on a micrometre scale resolution. Co-combusting sewage sludge with wheat straw resulted in differences in ash particles' porosity and pore structure compared to combustion of pure fuels. Pure wheat straw ash displayed 62 vol% porosity while there was no apparent difference between 10 wt% or 30 wt% mixtures of sewage sludge, with a porosity of 29-31 vol%. Open pore volume comprise the largest part of the porosity (72-99 vol%) enabling interaction between surrounding pore water and nutrients.Overall, the ash particles display large open volume fractions and thin particle walls which may lead to rapid weathering and extensive interaction with soil water. The particles generally contained pore openings over 200 mu m towards the surroundings, which provide opportunities for interaction with microbes and roots from a variety of plant species in addition to nutrient transport by soil water.


Micro-CT; Ash particle; Porosity; Specific surface area; Nutrient recycling

Published in

Waste Management
2021, Volume: 135, pages: 30-39