AbstractIn China, there is an urgent need for an efficient anaerobic digester to sustainably treat rice straw. In this study, a downward plug-flow anaerobic digester (DPAD) was designed in which the total working core is separated into three sections: an upper liquid zone, a lower liquid zone, and a solid-state bed (SSB) in the middle. A solid/liquid separation mechanism was designed to recirculate liquor and the discharged solid residue after complete digestion. The 70-L DPAD was run indoors for 100 d, time in which chopped rice straw (30 to 50 mm in length) was fed every 20 d. The digestion performance and biogas production were analysed to assess the feasibility for practice application. The results showed that the DPAD can control scum formation and offers a methane yield of 162.60 L/kg volatile solids, 21.1% higher than that of the control test. It was also found that straw was continuously and efficiently digested by the DPAD in 3 experimental stages. Methane production rates increased by 76.30%, 57.37%, and 13.33% on the second day compared to the first day, respectively, and then, all decreased as the substrate was gradually exhausted. Based on the results, it is clear that the DPAD is a promising solution for chopped straw digestion.