Extraction of single-cell protein from activated sewage sludge: thermal solubilization of protein

W. Thomas Shier, Siti K. Purwono

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


The single-cell protein in activated sludge from biological wastewater treatment represents the only source of essentially unutilized protein large enough to alleviate the worldwide shortfall. However, economical processes for extracting it on an adequate scale need to be developed. We have examined partial thermal digestion. Thermal treatment has inherent advantages of low treatment costs and production of no additional waste streams. Digestion in sealed tubes at 150-155°C and ambient pressure for 20 min resulted in optimal extraction of high molecular weight protein. Lower temperatures solubilized less material, whereas higher temperatures resulted in degradation of solubilized protein to low molecular weight fragments. Oxidation did not play an important role in degrading the protein under these conditions. A similar temperature dependence was observed for extraction of RNA and DNA. Elevated pH increased yields of high molecular weight protein at lower temperatures, but required substantial increased reagent input.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-162
Number of pages6
JournalBioresource Technology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1994

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by indirect cost recovery funds from the University of Minnesota, and a fellowship from the World Bank Indonesia Second University Development Project (to SKP). We thank Dr Nadim Shamat, Metropolitan Waste Control Commission, St Paul, MN, for providing the sewage sludge samples used in these studies.


  • Sewage sludge
  • hydrolysis
  • single-cell protein
  • thermochemical processing


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