A sequential membrane bioreactor followed by a membrane microalgal reactor for nutrient removal and algal biomass production
A hybrid process combining a single compartment aerobic membrane bioreactor (MBR) and a membrane microalgal reactor (MMR) was evaluated for nutrient removal and microalgal biomass production. When operated without biomass extraction, the microalgal biomass in the MMR reached 920 mg L−1 on day 18 and then collapsed, rendering nutrient removal ineffective. Stable operation of the MMR was achieved by regular biomass extraction (i.e. 1/30 of the microalgal biomass in the reactor daily). The biomass production at steady state was approximately 26 g m−3 d−1. The NO3− and PO43− uptake values by microalgae were 4.0 ± 1.1 and 1.5 ± 0.9 g m−3 d−1, respectively. A facile flocculation and separation technique capable of recovering 98% microalgal biomass was demonstrated. Although the hybrid process can significantly enhance nutrient removal and biomass production, further research is needed to intensify the microalgal growth rate. At the current microalgal growth rate, a large MMR volume (37 times that of the MBR) is necessary for synchronous operation.