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A membrane bioreactor (MBR) is a wastewater treatment process where a perm-selective membrane is integrated with a biological process – a suspended growth bioreactor.
A membrane bioreactor is essentially a version of the conventional activated sludge (CAS) system. Whereas the CAS process uses a secondary clarifier or settlement tank for solid/liquid separation, an MBR uses a membrane. This provides a number of advantages relating to process control and product water quality.
There is no significant difference in the design of the MBR technology for a process treating industrial rather than municipal wastewater. The key differences between the two applications are that, for industrial effluents, there are:
higher concentrations of organic matter
more temporal variation in the concentrations of pollutants (seasonally and diurnally)
very significant variations across different industrial sectors, the most biorefactory effluents being from landfill leachate applications
no requirement for the removal of pathogenic micro-organisms, unless the effluent is combined with a sewage stream.
A full needs analysis is required before selecting a membrane bioreactor system, first of all to confirm that an MBR will be the most cost effective solution for a particular requirement, taking everything into account. Secondly, to ensure an MBR is the most appropriate choice of technology for the circumstances.
An assessment of full-scale CAS vs MBR technologies
Bertanz et al conducted a comparative environmental, techno-economic and social acceptance assessment based on full-scale plant data from the 250,000 PE WWTP at Brescia-Verziano, fitted with both MBR and CAS lines