UV and bacteriophages as a chemical-free approach for cleaning membranes from anaerobic bioreactors

Giantommaso Scarascia, Luca Fortunato, Yevhen Myshkevych, Hong Cheng, TorOve Leiknes, Pei-Ying Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR) for wastewater treatment has attracted much interest due to its efficacy in providing high-quality effluent with minimal energy costs. However, membrane biofouling represents the main bottleneck for AnMBR because it diminishes flux and necessitates frequent replacement of membranes. In this study, we assessed the feasibility of combining bacteriophages and UV-C irradiation to provide a chemical-free approach to remove biofoulants on the membrane. The combination of bacteriophage and UV-C resulted in better log cells removal and ca. 2× higher extracellular polymeric substance (EPS) concentration reduction in mature biofoulants compared to either UV-C or bacteriophage alone. The cleaning mechanism behind this combined approach is by 1) reducing the relative abundance of Acinetobacter spp. and selected bacteria (e.g., Paludibacter, Pseudomonas, Cloacibacterium, and gram-positive Firmicutes) associated with the membrane biofilm and 2) forming cavities in the biofilm to maintain water flux through the membrane. When the combined treatment was further compared with the common chemical cleaning procedure, a similar reduction on the cell numbers was observed (1.4 log). However, the combined treatment was less effective in removing EPS compared with chemical cleaning. These results suggest that the combination of UV-C and bacteriophage have an additive effect in biofouling reduction, representing a potential chemical-free method to remove reversible biofoulants on membrane fitted to an AnMBR.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e2016529118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number37
StatePublished - Sep 7 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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