Experimental and CFD simulation investigations into fouling reduction by gas-liquid two-phase flow for submerged flat sheet membranes

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Copyright: Ndinisa, Nkosinathi Vincent
Submerged flat sheet membranes are mostly used in membrane bioreactors for wastewater treatment. The major problems for these modules are concentration polarization and subsequent fouling. By using gas-liquid two-phase flow, these problems can be ameliorated. This thesis aimed to optimize the use of gas-liquid two-phase flow as a cleaning mechanism for submerged flat sheet membrane. The effect of various hydrodynamic factors such as airflow rate, nozzle size, nozzle geometry, intermittent bubbling, intermittent filtration, channel gap width, feed concentration and membrane baffles were investigated for model feed materials (yeast suspensions and mixed liquor from activated sludge plants). Insights into mechanisms by which two-phase flow reduces fouling for submerged flat sheet membranes were obtained by using Computational Fluid Dynamics. Experiments conducted showed that an optimal airflow rate exists beyond which no further flux enhancement was achieved. Fouling reduction increased with nozzle size at constant airflow. Nozzles of equal surface area but different geometries performed differently in terms of fouling reduction. Bubble size distribution analyses revealed that the percentage of larger bubbles and bubble rise velocities increased with the airflow rate and nozzle size. Thus the results of this study suggest that the effectiveness of two-phase flow depends on the bubble size. CFD simulations revealed that average shear stress on the membrane increased with airflow rate and bubble size and further indicated that an optimal bubble size possible exists. Using intermittent filtration as an operating strategy was found to be more beneficial than continuous filtration. This study also showed the importance of the size of the gap between the submerged flat sheet membranes. Increasing the gap from 7 mm to 14 mm resulted in an increase in fouling by about 40% based on the rate of increase in suction pressure (dTMP/dt). Finally, this is the first study which investigated the effect of baffles in improving air distribution across a submerged flat sheet membrane. It was found that baffles decreased the rate of fouling at least by a factor of 3.0 based on the dTMP/dt data.
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Ndinisa, Nkosinathi Vincent
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PhD Doctorate
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