In order to optimize some operational conditions of MBR systems, a MBR pilot plant equipped with a submerged hollow fibre membrane module was employed in this study. The pilot MBR was fed with real municipal wastewater and the filtration flux, backwashing interval, aeration frequency and temperature were varied. A filtration flux below 25 l/m2h is generally recommended, at below this flux, the MBR operated at sub-critical flux conditions, the filter cake was minimized and membrane fouling was mainly attributed to the membrane pore blocking. Moreover, the membrane fouling, at below 25 l/m2h, was more reversible to backwashing; above this value, backwashing became less efficient to clean the membrane. Less frequent backwashing (e.g. 600 s filtration/45 s backwashing) decreased the amount of fouling irreversible to backwashing and its performance was superior to that of frequent backwashing (e.g. 200 s filtration/15 s backwashing). The MBR suffered more fouling at low temperature conditions (e.g. at 13–14 °C) than at high temperature conditions (e.g. at 17–18 °C). A conceptual model was built up and successfully interpreted this temperature effect.

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