A new ceramic membrane has been designed by NGK Insulators Ltd., Japan, to compete in the drinking water treatment market. The IWW Water Centre, Germany, investigated the operational performance and economical feasibility of this ceramic membrane in a one year pilot study of direct river water treatment with the hybrid process of coagulation and microfiltration. The aim of this study was to investigate flux, recovery, and DOC retention performance and to determine optimum operating conditions of NGK's ceramic membrane filtration system with special regards to economical aspects. Temporarily, the performance of the ceramic membrane was challenged under adverse conditions. During pilot plant operation river water with turbidities between 3 and 100 FNU was treated. Membrane flux was increased stepwise from 80–300 l/m2h resulting in recoveries between 95.9 and 98.9%. A DOC removal between about 20–35% was achieved. The pilot study and the subsequent economical evaluation showed the potential to provide a reliable and cost competitive process option for water treatment. The robustness of the ceramic membrane filtration process makes it attractive for a broad range of water treatment applications and, due to low maintenance requirements, also suitable for drinking water treatment in developing countries.

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