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A Review of Biofouling and its Control in Membrane Separation Bioreactors

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Membrane separation technology is increasingly becoming an important innovation in biological wastewater treatment. Biofouling of the membrane is a major factor affecting the efficient and economic operation of membrane separation bioreactors (MBRs). This review summarizes the state-of-the-art progress in understanding the mechanisms and factors affecting membrane biofouling and the strategies for biofouling control. Biofouling mechanisms include the adsorption of soluble and suspended extracellular polymers on membrane surfaces and in membrane pores, the clogging of membrane pore structure by fine colloidal particles and cell debris, and the adhesion and deposition of sludge cake on membrane surfaces. Design and operating conditions of membrane modules and materials, hydrodynamic conditions in MBRs, process and environmental conditions of activated sludge systems, and the physicochemical properties of the wastewater are the dominant factors determining membrane biofouling. Current strategies to control biofouling include periodic relaxation, backwashing, chemical cleaning, and possible manipulation of hydrodynamic conditions and sludge properties. Achieving full integration of MBRs in wastewater treatment technology requires further research and development. Fundamental information on the bacteria, colloid, and membrane interaction, developed through multimethod and multiscale approaches, is particularly needed.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-09-01

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  • Water Environment Research (WER) is published monthly, including an annual Literature Review. A subscription to WER includes access to the latest content back to 1992, as well as access to fast track articles. An individual subscription is valid for 12 months from month of purchase.

    Water Environment Research (WER) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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