Journal of Membrane Science, Vol.549, 466-473, 2018
Fouling suppression in submerged membrane bioreactors by obstacle dielectrophoresis
Submerged membrane bioreactor (MBR) is currently believed to be an efficient biological treatment for reusing and recovering wastewater to extenuate the ever increasing water scarcity crisis. To mitigate the main problem, membrane fouling, in MBR systems, we propose a solution that avoids usage of chemicals, and allows uninterrupted operation using a novel concept of obstacle dielectrophoresis (oDEP). The utilization of obstacles, insulator or metal (floating) electrodes, between electrically excited electrodes, can extend the DEP force field to move suspended particles away from membranes without having to increase voltage, for suppressing fouling with low energy consumption. Experimental investigation verified our theoretical simulation prediction and demonstrated that insulator membrane modules provide longer membrane service time for maintaining normalized permeate flux of 55% than those by floating electrode membrane modules, with a maximum intensification factor of 7.8 when applied 220 V voltage and 50 Hz as well as the transmembrane pressure of 0.1 bar. Although stronger DEP force and hence better performance of fouling suppression can be generated by higher voltage, 50 V insulator membrane module demonstrated to be the most energy efficient process with a specific energy consumption of 0.295 kWh/m(3) product and 13 times higher efficient factor than the 220 V.