Membrane biofouling by extracellular polymeric substances or soluble microbial products from membrane bioreactor sludge

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This study extracted the soluble microbial products and loosely bound and tightly bound extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) from suspended sludge from a membrane bioreactor, original and aerobically/anaerobically digested, and compared their fouling potentials on a microfiltration membrane. The resistance of cake layer accounts for 95-98% of the total filtration resistances when filtering the whole sludges, with anaerobically digested sludge presenting the highest resistance among the three tested sludges. The tightly bound EPS has the highest potential to foul the membrane; however, the loosely bound EPS contribute most of the filtration resistances of the whole sludges. The foulants corresponding to the irreversible fouling have chemical fingerprints similar to those from loosely bound EPS, which have a greater predilection to proteins and humic substances than to polysaccharides.

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