Effects of the nozzle arrangement and aerator configuration in slug bubble production to enhance the foulant removal from a flat sheet membrane bioreactor

Document Type : Original research


1 Department of Chemical Engineering, Science and Research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran

2 Faculty of Chemical Engineering, Sahand University of Technology, Tabriz, Iran

3 Membrane Technology Research Center, Sahand University of Technology, Tabriz, Iran


Membrane bioreactors (MBRs) are high-tech systems for water recycling and reusing of unconventional water resources such as municipal wastewater. However, the fouling of polymeric membranes is the main impediment to the market development of MBR. The polyolefin-based membranes are subjected to more severe organic fouling than other hydrophilic membranes due to their inherent strong hydrophobic properties, therefore, proposing efficient, fast, and economic fouling mitigation methods is vital for durable and long-standing performance. In this research, the hydrodynamics of a lab-scale membrane bioreactor with different configurations of aerators and nozzle sizes were used to investigate the air scouring efficiency. It was gained that aerators with higher air flow rates, e.g., 5.5 m/s can produce slug bubbles which are capable of foulant removal from the membrane surface. In comparison with a non-central aerator, the satisfactory scouring zone of the central aerator is narrow and the edge nozzles on both sides of the aerator are blocked. Under constant air flow rate, when the inlet air is injected into the aerator from two and three points, not only the end nozzles are blocked but also the liquid is penetrated into the aerator and the shear stress on the membrane surface decreased to 0.765 Pa. In the case of the non-central aerator, the satisfactory scouring zone becomes wider and neither nozzle blockage nor liquid penetration down to the aerator has occurred. The distribution of bubbles was optically evaluated by video imaging through the transparent plexiglass tank using aerators with different inlet flow rates and various configurations. Numerical simulations and related experimental analyses demonstrated that air inlet velocity has an important role in creating larger slug bubbles. It was shown that a non-central aerator in which the central nozzle in front of the inlet air stream is blocked, produces slug bubbles and sufficient air scoring on the flat sheet membrane. Configuration of a non-central aerator with 4 nozzles not only increased the satisfactory zone of each aerator without blockage of edge nozzles and liquid penetration into the aerator but also provided a higher shear rate over 1.104 Pa under a constant flow rate, which consequently removed the foulant from the membrane surface.


Main Subjects

  • Receive Date: 08 March 2023
  • Revise Date: 11 April 2023
  • Accept Date: 19 April 2023
  • First Publish Date: 19 April 2023