A Laboratory-scale experiment was conducted to investigate the mechanism of the bio-fouling in the submerged membrane separation activated sludge system. Flat-sheet-type membrane module was used and the change of the pressure and the filtration resistance was measured. Two reactors were operated in parallel to investigate the influence of organic loading rate on the reactor performance. A mathematical model was developed to simulate temporal changes of suction pressure, flux and filtration resistance considering accumulation, detachment and consolidation of EPS on the membrane surface. Parameters in the model were determined so that the calculated results fit to the measured variation curves. The high load reactor (1.5g-TOC L−1 day−1) showed a sudden increase of the pressure and a decrease of flux after 40th days, which could not be recovered even by membrane cleanings, while the low load reactor (0.5g-TOC L−1 day−1) showed little increase of the pressure until 120th days. The measured pattern of the flux, the pressure and the resistance were well explained by the developed model. Using the model, influence of operational parameters, such as organic loading rate, flux and shear stress working on the membrane, on the reactor performance was evaluated. It was concluded that the flux is the most influential parameter and when the flux is more than a critical value, which is as low as 0.1 m day−1, maximum time during which the set flux can be maintained becomes very short.

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