Wastewater Treatment Plant of the Future Utilizing Membrane Bioreactors

Project Summary

Since nearly 60-percent of water demand in Los Angeles County is satisfied with water sourced hundreds of miles away, securing sustainable local water supplies such as recycled water helps save enormous amounts of energy needed for water delivery. Local, recycled water supplies also provide greater resilience in times of drought or after a major earthquake. To deliver clean, potable water integrating high-rate bioreactors, a type of membrane filtration, with wastewater treatment is being widely considered to replace conventional nutrient removal processes in municipal wastewater treatment plants. Although membrane filtration has significantly contributed to ensuring local water supplies, the energy efficiency of membrane filtration is commonly limited by membrane biofouling preventing this technology from becoming widespread. Fouling occurs when microorganisms in the wastewater adhere to the surface of the membranes and form a dense layer that restricts the passage of water through the porous materials. The fouling control strategies such as strong aeration, frequent chemical cleaning, and membrane maintenance contribute to more than 70-percent of energy costs in membrane processes, significantly limiting their economic sustainability. This project develops a scalable coating system that can modify membrane materials to resist fouling. The new "anti-fouling" membranes can last longer, be cleaned easier, and ultimately produce more freshwater at a lower cost.

Research Team

Richard Kaner
Chemistry & Biochemistry, Physical Sciences

Eric Hoek
Civil & Environmental Engineering, Henry Samueli School of Engineering & Applied Sciences

Shaily Mahendra
Civil & Environmental Engineering, Henry Samueli School of Engineering & Applied Sciences 

Image for project showing white tube shaped water filter


Award Year