Analysis of nanoparticles in treated domestic wastewater for improved understanding and prevention of membrane fouling

Pre-treatments minimizing membrane fouling are extensively studied, to extend membrane life span and decrease the operating costs. In this study, the effect of several pre-treatment options before tertiary membrane treatment was investigated with a submicron particle counter from Nanosight (UK). This device using the Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis method is able to measure the particle size distribution and the absolute particle concentration of particles between 50 and 1000 nm in secondary effluent. The goal of this study is to enhance the understanding of MF/UF membrane fouling by monitoring the submicron particle fraction in the water. Experiments were carried out at lab-scale. Reliability and reproducibility of the device were determined as well as the impact of the pre-filtration on the measurements. The impact of ozonation (0-15 mg O3/L) and/or coagulation (0-12 mg Fe3+/L) on particle size distribution and on the filtration performance was studied on a polyethersulfone ultrafiltration membrane. Results showed a clear relationship between the amount of nanoparticles below 200 nm and the filtration behavior. Lower particle concentrations in this size range resulted in lower flux decline due to reversible fouling. Coagulation and ozonation pre-treatment decreased the particle concentration below 200 nm. The combination of ozonation/coagulation shows synergistic effects and leads to an additional decrease of submicron particle content and further improvement of the filtration performance. Long term impact on hydraulic irreversible fouling still needs to be clarified.

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