Membrane Bioreactors

Membrane bioreactors are often used in municipal and industrial wastewater treatment. It is a secondary filtration system used in turning sewage water into water suitable for drinking by removing the contaminants. The bioreactor combines pressure driven membrane operations like ultrafiltration and microfiltration to oxidize the organic material, making it easier to separate that material in later treatment. The entire process is continuous and easily controlled, and its widespread adoption around the world has made it the most common form of next-generation wastewater treatment technology. It has several advantages over the current treatment methods, namely size and efficiency.

In a membrane bioreactor, the ultrafiltration modules are placed in an activated sludge, effectively combining two steps—the biological process of digesting organic material via oxidation, and the separation of organic matter from nearly clean water—into one. There are two general formats used for the actual membrane material. The first uses flat sheets of membrane, rectangular in shape. In the second, the membrane consists of hollow fiber bundles. While these two are the most common, two other less-common formats exist as well.

In the third format, capillary tubes of membrane are used and liquid flows outward. The sludge accumulates inside the tubes, in contrast to the two most common formats where the sludge is flushed away. The fourth format uses the membranes in the form of circular disks arranged in an array. The disks are then submerged in the sludge and rotate. Any of these formats will do, but the first two are the ones most often adopted. Whatever the format, there are distinct advantages to using a membrane bioreactor in wastewater filtration. Not only is the process simple and highly efficient, but it uses less personnel, requires minimal supervision, requires less space and is friendlier to the environment.

Membrane bioreactors are being used in many different areas that filter water. Municipal water supplies, industrial sewage treatment centers, and businesses using recreation water services like pools and hot tubs have all experienced the benefits of employing these systems for their water treatment services. While there are many benefits, the system does have its downside. Because it is relatively nascent technology, the operating costs and overall energy consumption is slightly higher than most standard methods. That notwithstanding, it is worth the cost for the companies that are willing to pay a premium for greater efficiency and long term cost savings.

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