The optimum air backflushing and filtration cycle was investigated for a 0.1 μm hollow fiber membrane module immersed in an activated sludge aeration tank. It was found that 15 minutes filtration and 15 minutes air backflushing gave the best result both in terms of flux stability and net cumulative permeate volume. Although this cyclic operation could not completely remove the clogging, this process improved the flux by up to 371% compared to the continuous operation.
During the long term runs, three different hydraulic retention times (HRT) of 12, 6 and 3 hours, corresponding to 0.16, 0.32 and 0.64 m3/m2.d of permeate flux respectively, were investigated. Stable operation was obtained at the HRT of 12 hours. Decrease in HRT led to rapid formation of a compact cake layer on the membrane surface thus increasing the transmembrane pressure. It was also noted that filtration pressure increases with increase in bioreactor MLSS concentration. With operation time, the MLVSS/MLSS value decreased without significant effect on the process performance, indicating that inorganic mass constantly accumulated in the bioreactor. All the experimental runs produced more than 90% removal of COD, and TKN. In terms of physical, chemical, biological and bacteriological parameters, the membrane bioreactor effluent was superior to the conventional activated sludge process.