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Water Res. 2014 Feb 1;49:103-12. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2013.11.026. Epub 2013 Nov 27.

Removal of trace organics by anaerobic membrane bioreactors.

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  • 1Chemical Engineering Section, University Autonoma de Madrid, C/Francisco Tomas y Valiente 7, Madrid 28049, Spain. Electronic address:
  • 2Water Research Centre, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.
  • 3UNESCO Centre for Membrane Science and Technology, School of Chemical Engineering, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.


The biological removal of 38 trace organics (pharmaceuticals, endocrine disruptors, personal care products and pesticides) was studied in an anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR). This work presents complete information on the different removal mechanisms involved in the removal of trace organics in this process. In particular, it is focused on advanced characterization of the relative amount of TO accumulated within the fouling layers formed on the membranes. The results show that only 9 out of 38 compounds were removed by more than 90% while 23 compounds were removed by less than 50%. These compounds are therefore removed in an AnMBR biologically and partially adsorbed and retained by flocs and the deposition developed on the membranes, respectively. A total amount of 288 mg of trace organics was retained per m(2) of membrane, which were distributed along the different fouling layers. Among the trace organics analyzed, 17α-ethynylestradiol, estrone, octylphenol and bisphenol A were the most retained by the fouling layers. Among the fouling layers deposited on the membranes, the non-readily detachable layer has been identified as the main barrier for trace organics.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Anaerobic; Biodegradability; Fouling; Membrane bioreactor (MBR); Sorption; Trace organics

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