MBR membrane technology terms

Terms for the individual components of a membrane technology are used inconsistently for membrane bioreactors.

  • An ‘element’ can be considered to be the smallest replaceable component of the membrane technology. 
  • The term ‘module’ normally applies to a single element for a rectangular hollow fibre technology, but usually to a collection of elements in the case of flat sheets.  
  • The term ‘stack’ can be considered to apply generally to a collection of elements, though the terms ‘rack’, ‘unit’, ‘cassette’ and ‘skid’ are also used.  
  • A collection of immersed stacks is usually called a ‘train’, and the train may include the biological tank.
Table 1: Terminology for MBR membrane products and technologies.
Component Flat sheet (FS) Hollow Fibre (HF) rectangular panel Hollow Fibre (HF) cylindrical bundle; Multitube (MT)
Element Panel, element, sheet, cartridge Module, sub-unit Module
Collection of elements I Module, cassette, unit Rack, cassette, cartridge, module Skid
Collection of elements II Stack, frame Stack, frame

A number of abbreviations are used for the different polymeric membrane materials, as well as for the MBR process configurations. The process configuration defines how the membrane is integrated into the overall MBR process. It can be either immersed (or 'submerged') in a tank (hence the term iMBR) or placed outside of the tank as a sidestream (i.e. an sMBR).

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