Influence of membrane material and pore size on the performance of a submerged membrane bioreactor (sMBR) for oily wastewater treatment was investigated. The sMBR had a working volume of about 19 L with flat sheet modules at the same hydrodynamic conditions. Five types of micro- and ultra-polymeric membranes containing cellulose acetate (CA), cellulose nitrate (CN), polyamide (PA), polyvinylidene difluoride (PVDF) and polyethersulfone (PES) were used and their filtration performance in terms of permeability, permeate quality and fouling intensity were evaluated. Characterization of the membranes was done by performing some analysis such as pore size distribution; contact angle and scanning electronic microscopy (SEM) microphotograph on all membranes. The quality of permeates from each membrane was identified by measuring chemical oxygen demand (COD). The results showed more irreversible fouling intensity for membranes with larger pore size which can be due to more permeation of bioparticles and colloids inside the pores. Membrane characteristics have a major role in the preliminary time of the filtration before cake layer formation so that the PA with the highest hydrophilicity had the lowest permeability decline by fouling in this period. Also, the PVDF and PES membranes had better performance according to better permeate quality in the preliminary time of the filtration related to smaller pore size and also their better fouling resistance and chemical stability properties. However, all membranes resulted in the same permeability and permeate quality after cake layer formation. An overall efficiency of about 95% in COD removal was obtained for oily wastewater treatment by the membranes used in this study.
Keywords: fouling, hydrophilicity, MBR, membrane material, microfiltration, oily wastewater, ultrafiltration