MBR membranes are prone to fouling generally, and biofouling in particular, by organic matter originating from the microbial cells. These biofoulants vary in concentration with the activated sludge characteristics, such as the mixed liquor suspended solids (MLSS) concentration and solids retention time (SRT) (and so the food/microorganism (F/M) ratio), as well as the feedwater chemistry.
Features - Process biology
MBRs use more energy compared with classical activated sludge (CAS) because the aeration requirements are greater. Aeration is needed both for the biological and membrane tanks for degrading the organics and scouring the membrane respectively. Typically, aeration energy consumption accounts for 70–80% of total energy used for the municipal wastewater treatment process, with 40–60% consumed by the process biology.
Operational costs in MBRs are marginally higher than those of conventional activated sludge (CAS). Firstly, permeating water through a membrane demands energy. In the case of the immersed technologies (iMBRs) this means that the overall specific aeration demand (SAD) is higher, since air is needed both for maintaining the process biology in the aeration tank and scouring the immersed membrane.
Foaming of conventional activated sludge (CAS) is very common. It may happen during start-up due to the presence of surfactants, with insufficient biomass to degrade them during the early stages. However, this is normally a short-term issue. These foams (from surfactant foaming) are mostly white and can be countered with anti-foamants until there are sufficient biomass developed to degrade them.
Biological nitrogen removal from wastewater typically happens through aerobic nitrification (from ammonia to nitrate) and anoxic denitrification (nitrate to nitrogen gas). This is usually carried out in two separate process tanks other than in a sequencing batch reactors (SBRs). However, it is more energetically efficient to convert ammonia directly to nitrogen gas, since it requires less oxygen.
The non-Newtonian nature of sewage sludge means that its measured viscosity µs varies with shear rate due to the shear-dependent deformation of the flocculant solids (Yang et al, 2009). Viscosity affects the shear at the membrane interface, shear being a key parameter in promoting flux, and the dependency of apparent viscosity on temperature may then also be significant in determining flux.