2022: Experimental Solid–Liquid Mass Transfer around Free-Moving Particles in an Air-Lift Membrane Bioreactor with Optical Techniques


This article focuses on the study of the mass transfer involved in the application of a bacterial antifouling technique for membrane bioreactors (MBR), via the addition of solid media. These alginate objects can contain a biological system capable of producing an enzyme that degrades the signal molecules responsible for membrane fouling. The objective of this article is to quantify the mass transfer by distinguishing two main types: the transfer from the liquid to the solid media and the transfer from solid media to the liquid phase. For this purpose, a model molecule was chosen, and experiments were specifically developed with an optical device to track the concentration of the dye in the liquid phase, considering three different shapes for the particles (beads, hollow cylinders, and flat sheets). The experiments were first performed in jar tests and then in a lab-scale reactor. The results of this study revealed that the total amount of dye transferred into the sheets was greater than that transferred into the cylinders or the beads, which was attributed to the sheets having a larger exchange area for the same volume. When the dyed media were implemented in the MBR (loading rate of solid media: 0.45% v/v—no biomass), the global transfer coefficient from the sheets to the liquid was found to be greater than for the other shapes, indicating a faster transfer phenomenon. The effect of aeration in the MBR was investigated and an optimal air flowrate for fostering the transfer was found, based on the highest transfer coefficient that was obtained. This study provided key information about mass transfer in MBRs and how it is affected by the particle shapes and the MBR operating conditions.