The fouling propensity of digested sludge centrate, and the effectiveness of membrane flushing, air-scouring, and ultrasonication for physical cleaning were systematically evaluated. Accelerated fouling conditions were applied to simulate the long-term and intensive pre-concentration scenario that is required for phosphorus recovery from digested sludge centrate. The results suggest that membrane fouling during forward osmosis operation to pre-concentrate digested sludge centrate is mostly due to the deposition of small mineral crystals and particulate matter on the membrane surface. Both high cross-flow velocity flushing and ultrasonication were effective at preventing membrane fouling under accelerated fouling conditions. Our results also highlight the potential of intermittent membrane cleaning for achieving a higher cumulative permeate volume and lower energy consumption in comparison to continuous application to prevent membrane fouling. Among several physical cleaning regimes investigated in this study, the combination of ultrasonication and high cross-flow velocity flushing was the most effective and could maintain stable FO operation over several consecutive cleaning cycles.
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