Membrane technology in controlling micropollutants and pathogens

Read our report on 'Discussing membrane technology: micropollutants and pathogens' attended by 30 people from across the world (April 2021)

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The integrated fixed-film activated sludge membrane bioreactor (IFAS-MBR)

Giorgio Mannina et al present their comparison of an IFAS-MBR with a regular MBR for nutrient removal

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About MBRs

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.

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Municipal & industrial treatment

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.

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MBR costs

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.

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Design and Operation

Operation and maintenance (O&M) parameters for an MBR include:

  • membrane side − flux, pressure, permeability, recovery, membrane aeration rate, and physical and chemical cleaning cycle times and protocols, and
  • biological side − hydraulic and solids retention time, and sludge recycle rate(s).

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Clogging mitigation through MBR membrane module design

Depending on its severity, clogging can significantly reduce wastewater treatment capacity, increase CIP frequency, and significantly damage membrane equipment. Dennis Livingston et al. report

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Anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR) process control

Ángel Robles et al discuss the challenges of process control in AnMBR technology, focusing on the filtration component and encompassing closed and open loop systems

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