Membrane bioreactors for wastewater treatment is a combination of a suspended growth biological treatment method, usually activated sludge, with membrane filtration equipment, typically low-pressure microfiltration (MF) or ultrafiltration (UF) membranes. The membranes are used to perform the critical solid-liquid separation function. In activated sludge facilities, this is traditionally accomplished using secondary and tertiary clarifiers along with tertiary filtration. The two general types of MBR systems are vacuum (or gravity-driven) and pressure-driven systems. Vacuum or gravity systems are immersed and normally employ hollow fiber or flat sheet membranes installed in either the bioreactors or a subsequent membrane tank. Pressure driven systems are in-pipe cartridge systems located externally to the bioreactor.
An “MBR System” is considered to be a complete and integrated membrane unit (sub-systems) with related components necessary to allow the process to function as desired. An MBR system is often comprised of ten or eleven sub-systems and includes fine screening (headworks), the Membrane Zone and, in most cases, some type of post-disinfection process.
An MBR, or Membrane Zone, can best be described as the initial step in a biological process where microbes are used to degrade pollutants that are then filtered by a series of submerged membranes (or membrane elements). The individual membranes are housed in units known as modules, cassettes, or racks and a combined series of these modules are referred to as a working membrane unit. Air is introduced through integral diffusers to continually scour membrane surfaces during filtration, facilitate mixing and in some cases, to contribute oxygen to the biological process.
The benefits of MBR includes a reduced footprint, usually 30-50% smaller than an equivalent conventional active sludge facility with secondary clarifiers and media tertiary filtration. The process also produces exceptional effluent quality capable of meeting the most stringent water quality requirements, a modular schematic that allows for ease of expansion and configuration flexibility, a robust and reliable operation and reduced downstream disinfection requirements.
AMTA is the only industry organization that focuses specifically on membrane processes including reverse osmosis (RO), nanofiltration (NF), microfiltration (MF), ultrafiltration (UF), electrodialysis reversal desalination (EDR), and membrane bioreactors (MBR). The AMTA website offers a wide range of proprietary Fact Sheets and a complete Digital Library of presentations, posters, and papers on all topics related to membrane treatment, membrane systems, and regulatory and compliance topics.
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