The role of blocking and cake filtration in MBR fouling

Tao Jiang*, Maria D. Kennedy, Walter G.J. van der Meer, Peter A. Vanrolleghem, Jan C. Schippers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

90 Citations (Scopus)


Membrane fouling in a side stream biomass separation MBR pilot plant was investigated. Constant flux filtration (18-72 l/m2h was employed. Air was continuously supplied to the MBR system with the feed (sludge) to flush the membrane surface, and backwashing was applied every 5-10 min for 8 s to control membrane fouling. Although the duration of pore blocking was generally short (completed in 8 s at a flux of 52 l/m2h), blocking resistance (mainly irreversible blocking resistance) was the main cause of membrane fouling. However, the resistance of the filter cake also played an important role, particularly when the backwashing interval was extended to 10 min. In terms of fouling reversibility, blocking resistance was not completely reversible by backwashing, especially at higher fluxes (e.g. 69 l/m2h), and frequent chemical cleaning (once every week at 40 l/m2h) was required. However, cake filtration was easily reversible via a combination of backwashing and sludge/air flushing of the membrane surface. Finally, a simple method to identify both irreversible and reversible blocking resistance and filter cake resistance was proposed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-343
Number of pages9
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Blocking
  • Cake filtration
  • Fouling
  • Membrane bioreactor
  • Resistance


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