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Water Res. 2007 Sep;41(17):3794-802. Epub 2007 May 24.

Impact of coagulation and adsorption on DOC fractions of secondary effluent and resulting fouling behaviour in ultrafiltration.

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Department of Water Quality Control, Technical University of Berlin, Sekr. KF 4, Str. des 17. Juni 135, D-10623 Berlin, Germany.


Membrane fouling by macromolecular dissolved organic compounds is still a fundamental drawback in low-pressure membrane filtration of secondary effluent. In this study, pre-treatment of secondary effluent by coagulation and/or adsorption was investigated in terms of removal of different dissolved organic carbon (DOC) fractions, especially macromolecular substances. DOC fractionation has been characterised by size exclusion chromatography. Adsorption tests using four commercially available activated carbons yielded a removal of small as well as larger organic compounds, revealing differences in the affinity towards macromolecules depending on the type of applied activated carbon. By contrast, coagulation removed predominantly larger molecules, i.e., biopolymers and humic substances. In terms of DOC reduction, the coagulant ferric chloride was superior to aluminium chloride. A combination of coagulation and adsorption resulted in the addition of individual removal efficiencies, suggesting that different fractions of organic compounds were involved in each of the processes. After removal of macromolecular organic compounds either by coagulation or by adsorption, a significant reduction of membrane fouling was observed in tests using two different types of ultrafiltration flat-sheet membranes in 20-h cross-flow filtration tests.

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