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A novel filtration mode is presented to reduce fouling propensity in membrane bioreactors (MBR). During this mode, an elevated high instantaneous flux (60 L m-2 h-1) is initially applied for a short time (120 s), followed by a longer filtration (290 s) at lower flux (10.3 L m-2 h-1) and a backwash in each filtration cycle. The mixed mode is expected to limit irreversible fouling as the reversible fouling created during the initial stage appears to protect the membrane. Hydraulic performance and the components of foulants were analyzed and compared with conventional continuous and backwash modes. It was found that the mixed mode featured lower trans-membrane pressure (TMP) after 24 h of filtration when compared to other modes. The mixed mode was effective in preventing soluble microbial products (SMP) attaching directly onto the membrane surface, keeping the cake layer weakly compressed, and reducing the mixed liquor suspended solids (MLSS) accumulation on the membrane. This strategy reduced the resistances of both the cake layer and the gel layer. A factorial experimental design was carried out for eight runs with different conditions to identify the major operational parameters affecting the hydraulic performances. The results showed that the value of the flux in the initial high-flux period had the most effect on the performance of the mixed mode: high initial flux (60 L m-2 h-1) led to improved performance. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.