Other advantages of MBRs over conventional processes include small footprint, easy retrofit and upgrade of old wastewater treatment plants.
It is possible to operate MBR processes at higher mixed liquor suspended solids (MLSS) concentrations compared to conventional settlement separation systems, thus reducing the reactor volume to achieve the same loading rate.
Two MBR configurations exist: internal/submerged, where the membranes are immersed in and integral to the biological reactor; and external/sidestream, where membranes are a separate unit process requiring an intermediate pumping step.
Schematic of conventional activated sludge process (top) and external (sidestream) membrane bioreactor (bottom) Recent technical innovation and significant membrane cost reduction have enabled MBRs to become an established process option to treat wastewaters. As a result, the MBR process has now become an attractive option for the treatment and reuse of industrial and municipal wastewaters, as evidenced by their constantly rising numbers and capacity. The current MBR market has been estimated to value around US$216 million in 2006 and to rise to US$363 million by 2010.
Schematic of a submerged MBR
Membrane bioreactors can be used to reduce the footprint of an activated sludge sewage treatment system by removing some of the liquid component of the mixed liquor. This leaves a concentrated waste product that is then treated using the activated sludge process.
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