Optimization of the woven fibre-immersed membrane bioreactor (WF-IMBR)
Shitemi, Kenneth Khamati
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In this research, the woven fibre microfiltration (WFMF) fabric which is produced locally in South Africa is used as a membrane material. It is cheaper in price in comparison with the current commercial membrane materials that are in use. The WFMF is also more robust when compared with the commercial membrane materials thus is able to withstand harsh working conditions. From previous studies on the WFMF, it has been shown that it can be used as a membrane material without any compromise to permeate quality. This research seeks to optimize the working conditions of this membrane material (WFMF) with an aim of achieving lower running costs and better anti fouling strategies in comparison to the commercial MBRs. The objectives and aims of this research was to come up with a MBR system whose running cost is lower than that for the commercial systems, which can be adapted for use in any environment, especially in the hardship regions where its robustness would be an added advantage. The performance of the WFMF submerged MBR was also optimised including antifouling operating regimes. This study was done in a pilot plant that was set up at Veolia wastewater treatment plant, Durban Metro Southern Works. The feed water for the pilot plant was pumped from the return activated sludge mixing chamber by means of a submersible pump. The MLSS concentration of the feed water was about 12 g/l. The various investigations that were conducted in the course of this research included the effect of spacing between membrane modules, relaxation steps and frequencies, evaluation of aeration rates and evaluation of coarse vs. fine bubbles which were all aimed at optimizing the performance of the immersed WFMF MBR. The permeate was checked for turbidity and COD levels to ensure that they were within the accepted water standards. From the experiments it is shown that the critical flux increased with an increase in aeration rate which is in concurrence with the literature and a starting flux of 30 LMH was chosen for the running of the pilot plant for the various experimental runs to be carried out. For the pipe diffuser height effect experimental run, the best results were achieved at a height of 5 cm below the membrane modules and the use of a pipe diffuser gave better results than the use of a disc diffuser. For the membrane module spacing effect the best results were obtained at the smallest possible width i.e. 3.5 mm. The best relaxation step sequence was found to be 9 mins on and 1 min off. COD, turbidity and DO was continuously determined during the course of the experimentation. Further studies should be done on use of the disc diffuser with increased surface area of aeration holes and also hole sizes of smaller diameters to check on its effectiveness as a means of reducing fouling on the membrane surface.