While most scientific articles about MBR systems suggest membrane surface fouling as being the main operational limitation for the technology, it is widely recognised by practitioners that clogging phenomena – possibly related to inefficient pre-treatment – are at least as important. It is also recognised that clogging takes different forms...
Features - Membrane operation
There is little doubt that, of the challenges faced in MBR operation, recovery of permeability is arguably the most critical. When the routine maintenance membrane clean fails to achieve the required recovery and more aggressive recovery cleans are also found wanting, then ex-situ cleaning becomes necessary. This invariably incurs extensive manual intervention, not always with guaranteed success.
It is widely recognised by MBR practitioners that membrane bioreactors, and specifically those treating municipal wastewater, are subject to what is sometimes referred to as ‘ragging’. When the membrane module is removed, characteristic thick strands of material can be seen hanging from the bottom of the module.
Fouling in MBRs arises when materials either form a layer on the surface of the membrane or plug its pores. Studies are, however, generally unable to distinguish between coating of the membrane surface and phenomena relating to the agglomeration of solids. The latter has received little or no attention from the scientific community, and yet such irreversible deposition of solids clearly impairs MBR operation.