In membrane bioreactors (MBR) for wastewater treatment, the separation of activated sludge and treated water takes place by membrane filtration. Due to the small footprint and superior effluent quality, the number of membrane bioreactors used in wastewater treatment is rapidly increasing. A major challenge in this process is the fouling of the membranes which results in permeability decrease and the demand of chemical cleaning procedures. With the objective of a chemical-free process, the removal of the fouling layer by continuous physical abrasion was investigated. Therefore, particles (granules) were added to the activated sludge in order to realise a continuous abrasion of the fouling layer. During operation for more than 8 months, the membranes showed no decrease in permeability. Fluxes up to 40 L/(m2 h) were achieved. An online turbidity measurement was installed for the effluent control and showed no change during this test period. For comparison, a reference (standard MBR process without granules) was operated which demonstrated permeability loss at lower fluxes and required chemical cleaning. Altogether with this process an operation at higher fluxes and no use of cleaning chemicals will increase the cost efficiency of the MBR-process.

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