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Design of a Self-cleaning Membrane-assisted Bioreactor for Enhanced Removal of Nutrients from Wastewater

Dr. Soryong Chae, Assistant Professor at the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at the University of Cincinnati, completed an Ohio WRC funded project titled “Design of a self-cleaning membrane-assisted bioreactor for enhanced removal of nutrients from wastewater” which aimed to fabricate a self-cleaning membrane for efficient use in wastewater treatment. 

Dr. Chae and students built a bench-scale membrane bioreactor (MBR) that utilizes a self-cleaning carbon nanotube (CNT) membrane. They fed the MBR with synthetic wastewater to investigate organic compound, total nitrogen and total phosphorous removal. They also evaluated membrane durability and fouling potential when heating is used for membrane cleaning. The CNT composite membrane was able to treat wastewater for 9-10 days without cleaning, while a commercial polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) membrane in the same setting could be operated only for 6-7 days before cleaning/replacement. Furthermore, the membrane effectively recovered from fouling when subjected to electric heating. During this period, any physical damage of the CNT composite membrane was not found to be caused by the electric heating. The results allow for the development of novel engineering solutions for the mitigation of membrane fouling and/or recovery from membrane fouling that increases the performance of MBR systems and by reducing nutrient release reduces the potential risks to public health and the environment from the development of harmful algal blooms.

If you'd like to find out more about other Ohio WRC research projects, visit: