Activated Sludge Rheology: A critical review on data collection and modelling

Nicolas Rios Ratkovich, Willi Horn, Frank Helmus, Sandra Rosenberger, Wouter Naessens, Ingmar Nopens, Thomas Ruby Bentzen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

176 Citations (Scopus)


Rheological behaviour is an important fluid property that severely impacts its flow behaviour and many aspects related to this. In the case of activated sludge, the apparent viscosity has an influence on e.g. pumping, hydrodynamics, mass transfer rates, sludge-water separation (settling and filtration). It therefore is an important property related to process performance, including process economics. To account for this, rheological behaviour is being included in process design, necessitating its measurement. However, measurements and corresponding protocols in literature are quite diverse, leading to varying results and conclusions. In this paper, a vast amount of papers are critically reviewed with respect to this and important flaws are highlighted with respect to rheometer choice, rheometer settings and measurement protocol. The obtained rheograms from experimental efforts have frequently been used to build viscosity models. However, this is not that straightforward and a lot of errors can be detected with respect to good modelling practice, including fair model selection criteria, qualitative parameter estimations and proper model validation. These important steps are however recurrently violated, severely affecting the model reliability and predictive power. This is illustrated with several examples. In conclusion, dedicated research is required to improve the rheological measurements and the models derived from them. At this moment, there is no guidance with respect to proper rheological measurements. Moreover, the rheological models are not very trustworthy and remain very “black box”. More insight in the physical background needs 30 to be gained. A model-based approach with dedicated experimental data collection is the key to address this.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWater Research
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)463-482
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013


  • Rheology
  • Activated Sludge
  • Apparent Viscosity
  • Rheometer
  • Measurement Protocol
  • Good Modelling Practice
  • Membrane Bioreactors


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