Membrane separation systems can replace the final clarification step to separate mixed liquor suspended solids (MLSS) in the activated sludge processes. Mixed liquor suspended solids concentrations as high as 20 g/l can be obtained compared with the typical 3-4 g/l for conventional activated sludge/secondary clarifier systems. This leads to much smaller reactor volumes. In addition, excellent, solids free effluent qualities can be achieved with this process technology. This paper reports about the parallel investigation of three membrane systems installed within or outside bioreactors of 7 to 9 m3 volume and flow rates from 1 to 3 m3/h. The different membrane modules were investigated: plate module (80 m2 membrane surface), hollow fibre module (80 m2) and tubular module (45 m2). At MLSS concentrations up to 25 g/l and water temperatures from 10 to 25°C a stable operation of the membrane systems was achieved for a period of more than one year. The energy consumption was approximately 1.5 kWh/m3 for the plate and hollow fibre and 3.0 kWh/m3 for the tubular module system.

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