Companies developing and producing membranes for different separation purposes, as well as the market for these, have markedly increased in numbers over the last decade. Membrane and separation technology might well contribute to making fuel ethanol and biogas production from lignocellulosic materials more economically viable and productive. Combining biological processes with membrane separation techniques in a membrane bioreactor (MBR) increases cell concentrations extensively in the bioreactor. Such a combination furthermore reduces product inhibition during the biological process, increases product concentration and productivity, and simplifies the separation of product and/or cells. Various MBRs have been studied over the years, where the membrane is either submerged inside the liquid to be filtered, or placed in an external loop outside the bioreactor. All configurations have advantages and drawbacks, as reviewed in this paper. The current review presents an account of the membrane separation technologies, and the research performed on MBRs, focusing on ethanol and biogas production. The advantages and potentials of the technology are elucidated.
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