A new method for the assessment of the filterability in membrane bioreactors was tested for five months in four MBR units in Berlin. The new method BFM (Berlin Filtration Method) for filterability assessment uses a small membrane filtration test cell which can be submerged directly in the biological tanks to determine the filterability of the activated sludge in-situ. The test cell contains an aerated flat-sheet membrane which operates at similar conditions as in the plant. Filterability is expressed in terms of critical flux obtained by performing flux-stepping experiments. The ultimate goal of monitoring the filterability with the device is to detect in real time fouling occurrences due to changes in sludge composition and to adapt accordingly the operating conditions. The usefulness of the device for this purpose was evaluated for five months after monitoring four MBR plants in Berlin with different activated sludge characteristics (MLSS from 5 to 21 g/L, SRT 12–35 d and COD in the supernatant 30–400 mg/L). The first results show a good agreement between the filterability of the sludge with the portable filtration test cell and the filtration performance of the plant. Critical flux values varied between 3 and 30 L/m2 h during the studied period. Useful information concerning the irreversibility of the fouling was provided by looking at the hysteresis curve of the flux-stepping experiments.
Keywords: critical flux, filterability, flux-stepping, fouling, method membrane bioreactors