Publication Details

Luo, W., Phan, H. V., Xie, M., Hai, F. I., Price, W. E., Elimelech, M. & Nghiem, L. D. (2017). Osmotic versus conventional membrane bioreactors integrated with reverse osmosis for water reuse: biological stability, membrane fouling, and contaminant removal. Water Research, 109 122-134.


This study systematically compares the performance of osmotic membrane bioreactor - reverse osmosis (OMBR-RO) and conventional membrane bioreactor - reverse osmosis (MBR-RO) for advanced wastewater treatment and water reuse. Both systems achieved effective removal of bulk organic matter and nutrients, and almost complete removal of all 31 trace organic contaminants investigated. They both could produce high quality water suitable for recycling applications. During OMBR-RO operation, salinity build-up in the bioreactor reduced the water flux and negatively impacted the system biological treatment by altering biomass characteristics and microbial community structure. In addition, the elevated salinity also increased soluble microbial products and extracellular polymeric substances in the mixed liquor, which induced fouling of the forward osmosis (FO) membrane. Nevertheless, microbial analysis indicated that salinity stress resulted in the development of halotolerant bacteria, consequently sustaining biodegradation in the OMBR system. By contrast, biological performance was relatively stable throughout conventional MBR-RO operation. Compared to conventional MBR-RO, the FO process effectively prevented foulants from permeating into the draw solution, thereby significantly reducing fouling of the downstream RO membrane in OMBR-RO operation. Accumulation of organic matter, including humic- and protein-like substances, as well as inorganic salts in the MBR effluent resulted in severe RO membrane fouling in conventional MBR-RO operation.

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