Fouling is considered one of the main drawbacks of membrane bioreactor (MBR) technology. Among the main fouling agents, extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) are considered one of the most impactful since they cause the decrease of sludge filterability and decline of membrane flux in the long term. The present study investigated a biological strategy to reduce the membrane-fouling tendency in MBR systems. This consisted of seeding the reactor with activated sludge enriched in microorganisms with polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) storage ability and by imposing proper operating conditions to drive the carbon toward intracellular (PHA) rather than extracellular (EPS) accumulation. For that purpose, an MBR lab-scale plant was operated for 175 days, divided into four periods (1-4) according to different food to microorganisms' ratios (F/M) (0.80 kg COD kg TSS-1 d(-1) (Period 1), 0.13 kg COD kg TSS-1 d(-1) (Period 2), 0.28 kg COD kg TSS-1 d(-1) (Period 3), and 0.38 kg COD kg TSS-1 d(-1) (Period 4)). The application of the feast/famine strategy favored the accumulation of intracellular polymers by bacteria. The increase of the PHA accumulation inside the cells corresponded to the decrease of EPS and an F/M of 0.40-0.50 kg COD kg TSS-1 d(-1) was found as optimum to maximize the PHA production, while minimizing EPS. The lowest EPS content in the sludge (18% of total suspended solids) that corresponded to the maximum content of PHA (9.3%) was found in Period 4 and determined significant mitigation of the fouling rate, whose value was close to 0.10 x 10(11) m(-1) h(-1). Thus, by imposing proper operating conditions, it was possible to drive the organic matter toward PHA accumulation. Moreover, a lower EPS content corresponded to a decrease in the irreversible fouling mechanism, which would imply a lower frequency of the extraordinary cleaning operations. This study highlighted the possibility of obtaining a double benefit by applying an MBR system in the frame of wastewater valorization: minimizing the fouling tendency of the membrane and recovery precursors of bioplastics from wastewater in line with the circular economy model.

Membrane Fouling Mitigation in MBR via the Feast-Famine Strategy to Enhance PHA Production by Activated Sludge

Di Bella, Gaetano;
2022-01-01

Abstract

Fouling is considered one of the main drawbacks of membrane bioreactor (MBR) technology. Among the main fouling agents, extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) are considered one of the most impactful since they cause the decrease of sludge filterability and decline of membrane flux in the long term. The present study investigated a biological strategy to reduce the membrane-fouling tendency in MBR systems. This consisted of seeding the reactor with activated sludge enriched in microorganisms with polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) storage ability and by imposing proper operating conditions to drive the carbon toward intracellular (PHA) rather than extracellular (EPS) accumulation. For that purpose, an MBR lab-scale plant was operated for 175 days, divided into four periods (1-4) according to different food to microorganisms' ratios (F/M) (0.80 kg COD kg TSS-1 d(-1) (Period 1), 0.13 kg COD kg TSS-1 d(-1) (Period 2), 0.28 kg COD kg TSS-1 d(-1) (Period 3), and 0.38 kg COD kg TSS-1 d(-1) (Period 4)). The application of the feast/famine strategy favored the accumulation of intracellular polymers by bacteria. The increase of the PHA accumulation inside the cells corresponded to the decrease of EPS and an F/M of 0.40-0.50 kg COD kg TSS-1 d(-1) was found as optimum to maximize the PHA production, while minimizing EPS. The lowest EPS content in the sludge (18% of total suspended solids) that corresponded to the maximum content of PHA (9.3%) was found in Period 4 and determined significant mitigation of the fouling rate, whose value was close to 0.10 x 10(11) m(-1) h(-1). Thus, by imposing proper operating conditions, it was possible to drive the organic matter toward PHA accumulation. Moreover, a lower EPS content corresponded to a decrease in the irreversible fouling mechanism, which would imply a lower frequency of the extraordinary cleaning operations. This study highlighted the possibility of obtaining a double benefit by applying an MBR system in the frame of wastewater valorization: minimizing the fouling tendency of the membrane and recovery precursors of bioplastics from wastewater in line with the circular economy model.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11387/158065
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