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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Characterisation of ash particles from co-combustion of bark and sludges from pulp and paper industry

Skoglund, Nils; Thyrel, Mikael; Perrin, Jonathan; Strandberg, Anna


Recycling phosphorus from waste streams for fertilization purposes could contribute to a sustainable society. The production in the pulp and paper industry results in several waste streams, among others nutrient-rich sludges in different forms. This study presents a detailed chemical and 3D characterization of ash from co-combustion of bark and two types of sludges from a paper mill; mixed sludge and biosludge. The combustion performance was investigated for these experiments and advanced analysis methods were used to characterise the ashes to correlate chemical and physical properties relevant for nutrient recycling. The elemental composition was determined by energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy; dominating crystalline phases by X-ray diffraction; and morphology, porosity, pore size distribution and active surface area of the slag were analysed with synchrotron-based X-ray micro-tomography and image analysis. Slag was formed in all combustion experiments to a large extent with increasing amounts with a higher proportion of sludge. Nutrient amounts indicate that slag particles from co-combustion of both biosludge and mixed sludge can be useful either as a soil improvement directly or for recovery processes. Slag from combustion of 30 wt% biosludge and 70 wt% bark contained the highest amount of phosphorus, 9 at% on a C and O free basis. Evaluation of tomography data showed that discrete and open pores could be distinguished on a micrometre scale. The porosity of the slag varied between the replicates and fuel mixtures, on average between 17 and 23 vol% for the bark and sludge mixtures. Open pore volume displayed large variations, on average 39-56 vol% of the pores were open pores connected to the surrounding volume. For all samples, 90 % of the pores were small, with an equivalent diameter under 30 mu m, but the largest pore volume (80-90 %) consists of pores with an equivalent diameter over 75 mu m. In soils, pores with a minimum equivalent diameter over 30 mu m generally transmit water and the smaller pores store water. The slag particles have rela-tively thick walls, with few pore openings to the surroundings, indicating that the slag needs to be pre-treated by milling or crushing before application in the soil.


X-ray micro-tomography; Micro-CT; Biosludge combustion; Ash particle; Synchrotron-based analysis; Nutrient recycling

Published in

2023, Volume: 340, article number: 127597

      SLU Authors

    • Sustainable Development Goals

      SDG7 Affordable and clean energy
      SDG12 Responsible consumption and production

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Paper, Pulp and Fiber Technology

      Publication identifier


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