Anaerobic digestion allows efficient treatment of high loaded wastewater, and membrane technology allows obtaining high quality effluents with complete biomass retention. However, high biomass concentration interferes with membrane fouling. In the present work, a new bioreactor that integrates an attached biomass anaerobic culture on a fixed bed and a submerged membrane has been started up. The recirculation between the digestion and filtration chambers is coupled to the gas-lift effect of the bubbling employed for the scouring of the membranes, avoiding the use or electromechanical pumps that damage the suspended biomass. The support material retains the biomass in the digestion tank despite the downwards flow, avoiding the submerged membrane contacting with a high concentrated suspension. This novel system, called an anaerobic filter membrane bioreactor was immediately started up, achieving chemical oxygen demand (COD) removal efficiencies of 96% at an organic loading rate (OLR) of 7 kg COD/m3·d. In order to select filtration flux, specific gas demand and filtration cycle duration, the results of 15 short term assays, eight hours for each one, is presented for fluxes between 15.7 and 17.7 L/m2·h, cycle duration between 10 and 30 minutes, and three levels of scouring. It was checked that reversible and irreversible fouling were directly related when dTMP/dt > 2.5 mbar/min.

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