Influence of membrane properties on physically reversible and irreversible fouling in membrane bioreactors

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This study aimed to examine the impact of membrane properties on membrane fouling in membrane bioreactor (MBR). Membrane fouling was divided into two categories: physically reversible and irreversible fouling. Membrane properties related to each type of membrane fouling were investigated separately. Five microfiltration (MF) and one ultrafiltration (UF) membranes with different properties (pore size, contact angle, roughness, zeta potential, and pure water permeability) were examined with a laboratory-scale MBR, fed with synthetic wastewater. Two separate experiments were conducted: the first to examine physically reversible fouling, and the second to examine physically irreversible fouling. The correlation between the degree of each type of fouling and membrane properties was studied. High correlation was observed between the degree of physically reversible fouling and roughness (R2=0.96). In contrast, with regard to physically irreversible fouling, strong correlation between roughness and degree of membrane fouling can only be found in the case of MF membranes. Except for the membrane with the highest roughness, the degree of physically irreversible fouling can be well correlated with pure water permeability (lower pure water permeability results in higher degree of physically irreversible fouling) including UF membrane. On the basis of the results obtained in this study, it can be concluded that roughness is an important factor in determination of physically reversible fouling regardless of the types of membrane (i.e. MF or UF membranes) and evolutions of physically irreversible fouling can be mitigated when an MBR is operated with membranes with smooth surface and high pure water permeability.

Keywords: membrane bioreactor, membrane fouling, membrane properties

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