Development and evaluation of flux enhancement and cleaning strategies of woven fibre microfiltration membranes for raw water treatment in drinking water production
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Woven Fibre Microfiltration (WFMF) membranes have several advantages over its competitors with respect to durability, making it a favourable alternative for the developing world and operation during rough conditions. Wide application of membrane technology has been limited by membrane fouling. The durability of the WFMF membrane allows more options for flux enhancement and cleaning methods that can be used with the membranes even if they are vigorous. Therefore, the purpose of this work was to develop and evaluate flux enhancement and cleaning strategies for WFMF membranes. Feed samples with high contents of organics and turbidity were required for the study. Based on this, two rivers which are Umkomaasi and Duzi River were identified to satisfy these criteria. A synthetic feed with similar fouling characteristics as the two river water was prepared and used for this study. The synthetic feed solution was made up of 2 g/ℓ of river clay in tap water and 0.5% domestic sewerage was added into the solution accounting for 2% of the total volume. A membrane filtration unit was used for this study. The unit consisted of a pack of five membrane modules which were fully immersed into a 100 litres filtration tank. The system was operated under gravity and the level in the filtration tank was kept constant by a level float. The study focused on evaluating the performance of the woven fibre membrane filtration unit with respect to its fouling propensity to different feed samples. It also evaluated and developed flux enhancement and cleaning strategies and flux restoration after fouling. The results were compared to a base case for flux enhancement and pure water fluxes for cleaning. The WFMF membrane was found to be prone to both internal and external fouling when used in the treatment of raw water (synthetic feed). Internal fouling was found to occur quickly in the first few minutes of filtration and it was the major contributor for the loss of flux from the WFMF membrane. The fouling mechanism responsible for internal fouling was found to be largely pore blocking and pore narrowing due to particle adsorption on/in the membrane pores. The structure (pore size, material and surface layout) of the WFMF membrane was found to be the main cause that made it prone to internal fouling. The IV major fouling of the WFMF membrane was due to internal fouling, a high aeration rate of 30 ℓ/min had minimal effect on the fouling reduction. An aeration rate of 30 ℓ/min improved the average flux by only 36%, where a combination of intermittent backwashing with brushing and intermittent backwashing with aeration (aeration during backwashing only) improved average flux by 187% and 135% respectively. Pre-coating the WFMF membrane with lime reduced the effects of pore plugging and particle adsorption on the membrane and improved the average flux by 66%. The cleaning strategies that were most successful in pure water flux (PWF) recovery were high pressure cleaning and a combination of soaking and brushing the membrane in a 0.1% NaOCl (desired) solution. PWF recovery by these two methods was 97% and 95% respectively. Based on these findings, it was concluded that the WFMF membrane is susceptible to pore plugging by colloidal material and adsorption/attachment by microbiological contaminants which took effect in the first hour of filtration. This led to a 50% loss in flux. Also, a single flux enhancement strategy proved insufficient to maintain a high flux successfully. Therefore, combined flux enhancement strategies yielded the best results.