Water research

Engineering of an MBR supernatant fouling layer by fine particles addition: a possible way to control cake compressibility.

PMID 21232780


For membrane bioreactors (MBR) applied to wastewater treatment membrane fouling is still the prevalent issue. The main limiting phenomena related to fouling is a sudden jump of the transmembrane pressure (TMP) often attributed to the collapse of the fouling layer. Among existing techniques to avoid or to delay this collapse, the addition of active particles membrane fouling reducers (polymer, resins, powdered activated carbon (PAC), zeolithe...) showed promising results. Thus the main objective of this work is to determine if fouling can be reduced by inclusion of inert particles (500 nm and inert compared to other fouling reducers) and which is the impact on filtration performances of the structuring of the fouling. Those particles were chosen for their different surface properties and their capability to form well structured layer. Results, obtained at constant pressure in dead end mode, show that the presence of particles changes foulant deposition and induces non-compressible fouling (in the range of 0.5-1 bar) and higher rejection values compared to filtration done on supernatant alone. Indeed dead end filtration tests show that whatever interactions between biofluid and particles, the addition of particles leads to better filtration performances (in terms of rejection, and fouling layer compressibility). Moreover results confirm the important role played by macromolecular compounds, during supernatant filtration, creating highly compressible and reversible fouling. In conclusion, this study done at lab-scale suggests the potential benefit to engineer fouling structure to control or to delay the collapse of the fouling layer. Finally this study offers the opportunities to enlarge the choice of membrane fouling reducers by taking into consideration their ability to form more consistent fouling (i.e. rigid, structured fouling).