Characterisation of RO fouling in an integrated MBR/RO system for wastewater reuse

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Membrane filtration has gradually gained acceptance as the preferred pre-treatment for reverse osmosis (RO). In this paper, an integrated membrane bioreactor (MBR)/RO system for wastewater reuse treating real sewage water has been evaluated and the RO fouling has been characterised. The MBR achieved low values of organic matter, total nitrogen, PO43−, total organic carbon, turbidity and conductivity. Filtration with two different RO commercial membranes was performed after the MBR pre-treatment and the same average fouling rate (0.08 bar day−1) was noted. These results gained from the characterisation of the high quality MBR/RO permeate show its potential for water reuse. Inorganic precipitation appears to be the predominant form of fouling in the RO membranes. Calcium phosphate and alumino-silicates were identified by a scanning electron microscope combined with an energy dispersive X-ray and polysaccharides, amide and aliphatic structures were detected with attenuated total reflection infrared microspectroscopy.

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