Periodic venting of MABR lumen allows high removal rates and high gas-transfer efficiencies
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AuthorPérez Calleja, Patricia; Aybar, M.; Picioreanu, C; Esteban García, Ana Lorena; Martin, Kelly J.; Nerenberg, R.
The membrane-aerated biofilm reactor (MABR) is a novel treatment technology that employs gas-supplying membranes to deliver oxygen directly to a biofilm growing on the membrane surface. When operated with closed-end membranes, the MABR provides 100-percent oxygen transfer efficiencies (OTE), resulting in significant energy savings. However, closed-end MABRs are more sensitive to back-diffusion of inert gases, such as nitrogen. Back-diffusion reduces the average oxygen transfer rates (OTR), consequently decreasing the average contaminant removal fluxes (J). We hypothesized that venting the membrane lumen periodically would increase the OTR and J. Using an experimental flow cell and mathematical modeling, we showed that back-diffusion gas profiles developed over relatively long timescales. Thus, very short ventings could re-establish uniform gas profiles for relatively long time periods. Using modeling, we systematically explored the effect of the venting interval (time between ventings). At moderate venting intervals, opening the membrane for 20 s every 30 min, the venting significantly increased the average OTR and J without substantially impacting the OTEs. When the interval was short enough, in this case shorter than 20 min, the OTR was actually higher than for continuous open-end operation. Our results show that periodic venting is a promising strategy to combine the advantages of open-end and closed end operation, maximizing both the OTR and OTE.