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Ester quaternary ammonium compounds (esterquats), which are mainly used as active ingredients in fabric softeners and personal care products, are beginning to replace traditional quaternary ammonium compounds. As a result of hydrophobicity and increasing use, esterquats reach anaerobic treatment systems. However, little is known about the fate of esterquats under anaerobic conditions. In the present study, the potential inhibitory effect and biotransformation of two alkanoylcholines - acetylcholine chloride (ACh-Cl) and lauroylcholine chloride (LCh-Cl) - which are simple esterquats, under methanogenic conditions were investigated. ACh-Cl up to 300 mg/L was not inhibitory to a mixed methanogenic culture. In contrast, methanogenesis was inhibited by LCh-Cl above 50 mg/L, primarily caused by the accumulation of lauric acid which resulted from the abiotic hydrolysis of LCh. Below inhibitory concentrations, both ACh and LCh were transformed to methane by the mixed methanogenic culture. Mass spectrometric analysis confirmed that both alkanoylcholines were first abiotically hydrolyzed to choline and the corresponding alkanoic acid, which were then biotically transformed to methane, carbon dioxide, and ammonia. Thus, alkanoylcholine-containing waste streams can be bioprocessed to form methane, but hydrolysis products such as long-chain alkanoic acids may adversely impact the anaerobic bioconversion of alkanoylcholines. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Citation

Mary Katherine Watson, Ulas Tezel, Spyros G Pavlostathis. Biotransformation of alkanoylcholines under methanogenic conditions. Water research. 2012 Jun 1;46(9):2947-56

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PMID: 22463863

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