The objective of the research was to evaluate in-line coagulation to improve performance during ultrafiltration (UF). In-line coagulation means use of coagulants without removal of coagulated solids prior to UF. Performance was evaluated by removal of contaminants (water quality) and by resistance to filtration and recovery of flux after hydraulic or chemical cleaning (water production). We hypothesized that coagulation conditions inappropriate for conventional treatment, in particular under-dosing conditions that produce particles that neither settle nor are removed in rapid sand filters, would be effective for in-line coagulation prior to UF. A variety of pre-treatment processes for UF have been investigated including coagulation, powdered activated carbon (PAC) or granular activated carbon (GAC), adsorption on iron oxides or other pre-formed settleable solid phases, or ozonation. Coagulation pre-treatment is often used for removal of fouling substances prior to NF or RO. It has been reported that effective conventional coagulation conditions produced larger particles and this reduced fouling during membrane filtration by reducing adsorption in membrane pores, increasing cake porosity, and increasing transport of foulants away from the membrane surface. However, aggregates produced under sweep floc conditions were more compressible than for charge neutralization conditions, resulting in compaction when the membrane filtration system was pressurized. It was known that the coagulated suspension under either charge-neutralization or sweep floc condition showed similar steady-state flux under the cross-flow microfiltration mode. Another report on the concept of critical floc size suggested that flocs need to reach a certain critical size before MF, otherwise membranes can be irreversibly clogged by the coagulant solids. The authors were motivated to study the effect of various coagulation conditions on the performance of a membrane filtration system.

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