Soluble Microbial Product Characterization of Biofilm Formation in Bench-Scale

  • Paul Mines

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


The biological process known as activated sludge (AS) in conjunction with membrane separation technology for the treatment of wastewater has been employed for over four decades. While, membrane biological reactors (MBR) are now widely employed, the phenomenon of membrane fouling is still the most significant factor leading to performance decline of MBRs. Although much research has been done on the subject of MBR fouling over the past two decades, many questions remain unanswered, and consensus within the scientific community is rare. However, research has led to one system parameter generally being regarded as a contributor to membrane fouling, extracellular polymeric compounds (EPS). EPS, and more specifically, the soluble fraction of EPS known as soluble microbial products (SMP), must be further investigated in order to better understand membrane fouling. The biological activity and performance of the MBR is affected by myriad operational parameters, which in turn affects the SMP generated. A commonly varied operational parameter is, depending on the specific treatment needs of a MBR, the sludge retention time (SRT). This study aims to characterize the SMP in three bench-scale MBRs as the SRT is gradually lowered. By studying how the SMP change as the operation of the system is altered, greater understanding of how SMP are related to fouling can be achieved. At the onset of the study, a steady state was established in the system with a SRT of 20 days. Upon stabilization of a 20 day SRT, the system was gradually transitioned to a five and a half day SRT, in stepwise adjustments. Initially, both the trans-membrane pressure (TMP) and the SMP concentrations were at relatively low values, indicating the presence of minimal amounts of biofilm on the membrane surfaces. As the system was altered and more activated sludge was wasted from the reactors, the SRT inherently decreased. As the lower SRT was transitioned and established, the data from TMP measurements, as well as the results from SMP determination, confirmed the development of increased amounts of biofilm formed. An apparent relationship was observed between the operational condition of a lower SRT and the SMP found in the system.
Date of AwardDec 2012
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorGary Amy (Supervisor)


  • MBR
  • Waste water
  • SMP
  • SRT
  • EPS

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