Characteristics of different fractions (small flocs vs. large flocs) of sludge flocs from a submerged anaerobic membrane bioreactor treating thermomechanical pulping (TMP) whitewater were determined using various analytic techniques, including extraction and chemical analysis of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS), particle size analyzer, and polymer chain reaction (PCR)-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). The results showed that the fraction of smaller flocs contained a higher level of bound EPS and had a higher fractal dimension as compared to the fraction of larger flocs. PCR-DGGE analysis indicated that there were significant differences in microbial community between the fraction of smaller flocs and large flocs. The microbial community of the smaller flocs was similar to that of the sludge cake layers, indicating the pioneering role of the microbial community in smaller flocs in membrane fouling. These findings provide a new insight in the difference of membrane fouling potential between smaller flocs and larger flocs fraction.
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