An innovative osmotic membrane bioreactor (OMBR) is currently under development for the reclamation of wastewater, which combines activated sludge treatment and forward osmosis (FO) membrane separation with a RO post-treatment. The research focus is FO membrane fouling and performance using different activated sludge investigated both at laboratory scale (membrane area of 112 cm2) and at on-site bench scale (flat sheet membrane area of 0.1m2). FO performance on laboratory-scale (i) increased with temperature due to a decrease in viscosity and (ii) was independent of the type of activated sludge. Draw solution leakage increased with temperature and varied for different activated sludge. FO performance on bench-scale (i) increased with osmotic driving force, (ii) depended on the membrane orientation due to internal concentration polarization and (iii) was invariant to feed flow decrease and air injection at the feed and draw side. Draw solution leakage could not be evaluated on bench-scale due to experimental limitation. Membrane fouling was not found on laboratory scale and bench-scale, however, partially reversible fouling was found on laboratory scale for FO membranes facing the draw solution. Economic assessment indicated a minimum flux of 15 L.m−2h−1 at 0.5M NaCl for OMBR-RO to be cost effective, depending on the FO membrane price.
Keywords: forward osmosis, membrane fouling, osmotic membrane bioreactor, salt flux, water flux