Soluble microbial products in membrane bioreactor operation: Behaviors, characteristics, and fouling potential

Shuang Liang, Cui Liu, Lianfa Song

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This paper presents an experimental study on soluble microbial products (SMP) in membrane bioreactor (MBR) operation at different sludge retention times (SRTs). A laboratory-scale MBR was operated at SRT of 10, 20, and 40 days for treatment of readily biodegradable synthetic wastewater. The accumulation, composition, characteristics, and fouling potential of SMP at each SRT were examined. It was found that accumulation of SMP in the MBR became more pronounced at short SRTs. Carbohydrates and proteins appeared to be the components of SMP prone to accumulate in the MBR compared with aromatic compounds. The proportions of SMP with large molecular weight in supernatants and in effluents were almost identical, implying that membrane sieving did not work for most SMP. In addition, the majority of SMP was found to be composed of hydrophobic components, whose proportion in total SMP gradually increased as SRT lengthened. However, fouling potentials of SMP were relatively low at long SRTs. The hydrophilic neutrals (e.g., carbohydrates) were most likely the main foulants responsible for high fouling potentials of SMP observed at short SRTs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-101
Number of pages7
JournalWater Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007



  • Accumulation
  • Characteristics
  • Fouling potential
  • Membrane bioreactor
  • Sludge retention time
  • Soluble microbial products

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