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Membrane Bioreactors for Industrial Wastewater Treatment: Applicability and Selection of Optimal System Configuration

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The membrane biological reactor (MBR) configuration has proven to be optimal for treatment of many industrial wastewaters when treatment efficiency is an important consideration. Since installation of the first large, U.S., full scale MBR system for industrial wastewater treatment at the General Motors plant in Mansfield, Ohio in the early 1990s, use of membranes for biomass-effluent separation in biological systems has gained wide appeal both in this country and internationally. Industrial applications have ranged from nitrogen removal from food processing wastewaters to use of the technology to deal with complex organics in wastewaters originating from the production of pharmaceuticals and the manufacture of polymeric membrane materials. Historically, low membrane flux, low permeability, limited membrane life and high membrane costs hindered broad application of the MBR technology. The membrane industry, including independent research and development organizations and system suppliers, invested considerable effort to overcome these limitations over the past decade. The result has been a dramatic increase in the number of new commercial system embodiments of the MBR configuration offered by suppliers and a rapid acceleration in the use of the technology for treatment of industrial wastewaters and other aqueous streams.

MBR systems can be categorized according to the location of the membrane component. Until recently, the immersed or internal membrane MBR was typically more cost-effective than the external membrane MBR particularly in the treatment of larger wastewater flows. The technical advantages of the external membrane configuration, and recent significant membrane and system design advances resulting in reductions in operating power costs, have translated to broader application of this configuration. External membrane MBRs have recently been designed to treat wastewater flows as high as 3785 m3/day.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2006

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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