MBR is the combination of a membrane process like microfiltration or ultrafiltration with a suspended growth bioreactor, and is now widely used for municipal and industrial wastewater treatment. The advantages of MBRs over conventional processes include small footprint, easy retrofit and upgrade of old wastewater treatment plants. Membrane bioreactors can be used to reduce the footprint of an activated sludge sewage treatment system by removing some of the liquid component of the mixed liquor.
There are 2 types of MBR: Internal and External
In systems where the membranes are in a separate tank to the bioreactor, individual trains of membranes can be isolated to undertake cleaning regimes incorporating membrane soaks, however the biomass must be continuously pumped back to the main reactor to limit MLSS concentration increase.
The membranes can be flat sheet or tubular or combination of both, and can incorporate an online backwash system which reduces membrane surface fouling by pumping membrane permeate back through the membrane. Additional aeration is also required to provide air scour to reduce fouling. Where the membranes are installed in the main reactor, membrane modules are removed from the vessel and transferred to an offline cleaning tank.
The filtration elements are installed externally to the reactor. The biomass is either pumped directly through a number of membrane modules in series and back to the bioreactor, or the biomass is pumped to a bank of modules, from which a second pump circulates the biomass through the modules in series. Cleaning and soaking of the membranes can be undertaken in place with use of an installed cleaning tank, pump and pipework.