Your web browser is out of date.

Update your browser for better security, speed and to get the best experience on this website.

Update your browser
Advert

MBR research trends − the cost of unoriginality

Posted on
Simon Judd
Simon Judd

Professor Simon Judd has over 30 years’ post-doctorate experience in all aspects of water and wastewater treatment technology, both in academic and industrial R&D. He has (co-)authored six book titles and over 200 peer-reviewed publications in water and wastewater treatment.

In his capacity as director of Judd Water & Wastewater Consultants, Simon is co-owner of The MBR Site.com, as well as of our sister website SludgeProcessing.com. He is Professor in Membrane Technology at the Cranfield Water Science Institute at Cranfield University in the UK where he has been a staff member since 1992. Simon was also a Research Chair at Qatar University in the Middle East for six years until September 2018.

Sharp-eyed readers of this blog, and possibly those people whose lives are blighted by knowing me personally, may have received the impression that I am not a huge fan of MBR research publications based on fouling. It could be argued that there is far too much effort dedicated to this single area and, in an invited review published in Water Research (see References), there is at least some fuel provided for this particular fire.

If research into two leading membrane technology applications, namely wastewater treatment using MBRs (Fig. 1) and desalination of seawater with reverse osmosis (Fig. 2), is compared on the same basis, it's evident that the emphasis on different topics is quite significant.

The analysis reveals a marked difference in emphasis on, in particular, cost (and the related subject of energy) aspects between the two research areas; the focus on cost specifically is around 16 times greater for RO desalination of seawater than it is for MBR treatment of wastewater. Although some key MBR research areas where there is significant growth, such as anaerobic MBRs, have energy implications, this aspect is rarely the specific focus of the published research.

MBR research instead appears to be dominated by fouling and foulant characterisation, making up almost a quarter of all studies. This is despite evidence from practitioners that other process parameters are as important in determining MBR process OPEX and operability. The logic behind the study of fouling is that it impacts on energy, and thus cost. However, this does rather make the assumption that fouling reduces the flux. In fact, if fouling merely reduces the mean permeability while sustaining the flux i.e. increasing the operational transmembrane pressure then the impact of a 10% reduction in permeability on the energy consumption is less than 0.3% for either of the two processes.

Figure 1: Incidence of specific subjects in research papers, MBR treatment of wastewater | Blog June 17 Mbr Research Trends The Cost Of Unoriginality Fig 1
Figure 1: Incidence of specific subjects in research papers, MBR treatment of wastewater
Figure 2: Incidence of specific subjects in research papers, RO desalination of seawater | Blog June 17 Mbr Research Trends The Cost Of Unoriginality Fig 2
Figure 2: Incidence of specific subjects in research papers, RO desalination of seawater

The methodology used for this comparison is based on bibliometric analysis of a scientific publication database (SCOPUS in this case) and can, of course, always be called into question. However, benchmarking against seawater desalination provides a stark reminder that there are one or two other subjects within the gamut of membrane technology besides the all-consuming one of membrane surface fouling, and that some of these perhaps warrant a little more than idle curiosity.

Comments

All comments are moderated and may be edited or deleted at any time. You must not post anything that is defamatory, illegal, offensive or which contravenes our privacy policy guidelines. Email addresses are only used for comments purposes. Contact info@thembrsite.com to remove or edit a comment.

References

Judd, S. Membrane technology costs and me, Water Res. 122 1−9.

About this page

This page was last updated on 08 June 2021

Disclaimer

Information on this page may have been supplied by third parties. You are reminded to contact any third parties to confirm information is accurate, up to date and complete before acting upon it. TheMBRSite.com accepts no liability for information provided by third parties, actions taken on the basis of this information or information held on third-party websites.