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Investigation of effect of dynamic operational conditions on membrane fouling in a membrane enhanced biological phosphorus removal process Abdullah, Syed Zaki


The membrane bioreactor (MBR) is becoming increasingly popular for wastewater treatment, mainly due to its capability of producing high quality effluent with a relatively small footprint. However, high plant maintenance and operating costs due to membrane fouling limit the wide spread application of MBRs. Membrane fouling generally depends on the interactions between the membrane and, the activated sludge mixed liquor, which in turn, are affected by the chosen operating conditions. The present research study aimed to explore the process performance and membrane fouling in the membrane enhanced biological phosphorus removal (MEBPR) process under different operating conditions by, (1) comparing two MEBPRs operated in parallel, one with constant inflow and another with a variable inflow, and by, (2) operating the MEBPRs with different solids retention times (SRT). On-line filtration experiments were conducted simultaneously in both MEBPR systems by using test membrane modules. From the transmembrane pressure (TMP) data of the test membrane modules, it was revealed that fouling propensities of the MEBPR mixed liquors were similar in both parallel reactors under the operating conditions applied, although the fouling propensity of the aerobic mixed liquors of both reactors increased when the SRT of the reactors was reduced. Routinely monitored reactor performance data suggest that an MEBPR process with a varying inflow (dynamic operating condition) performs similarly to an MEBPR process with steady operating conditions at SRTs of 10 days and 20 days. Mixed liquor characterization tests were conducted, including critical flux, capillary suction time (CST), time to filter (TTF) and, bound and soluble extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) were quantified, to evaluate their role on membrane fouling. The tests results suggest that the inflow variation in an MEBPR process did not make a significant difference in any of the measured parameters. With decreased SRT, an increase in the concentrations of EPS was observed, especially the bound protein, and the bound and soluble humic-like substances. This suggests that these components of activated sludge mixed liquors may be related to membrane fouling. No clear relationship was observed between membrane fouling and other measured parameters, including critical flux, normalized CST and normalized TTF.

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