An enzymatic approach to the cleaning of ultrafiltration membranes fouled in abattoir effluent
Membrane fouling severely curtails the economical and practical implementation of ultrafiltration for the purification of biologically related process streams such as abattoir effluent. Mechanical and chemical removal of foulants usually lead to membrane damage and additional pollution. Enzymes, specific for the degradation of proteins and lipids, were tested as key components of biological cleaning regimes for membranes fouled in abattoir effluent. Fouling of polysulphone membranes was assessed as previously described by Maartens et al. and optimal enzyme concentrations and incubation times were determined for the different preparations. The ability of each cleaning agent to remove adsorbed protein and lipid material, as well as their ability to restore the water-contact angle and the pure-water flux of the fouled membranes, were determined and compared. These variables were also used to compare the cleaning efficiency of enzymatic cleaning agents with conventional chemical agents under optimal conditions. The enzymes and enzyme detergent mixtures were effective cleaning agents and the pure-water flux of statically fouled membranes could be restored by treatment with these agents.