Indexed on: 12 Oct '04Published on: 12 Oct '04Published in: Ultrasonics Sonochemistry
Ultrafiltration (UF) of whey is a major membrane based process in the dairy industry. However, commercialization of this application has been limited by membrane fouling, which has a detrimental influence on the permeation rate. There are a number of different chemical and physical cleaning methods currently used for cleaning a fouled membrane. It has been suggested that the cleaning frequency and the severity of such cleaning procedures control the membrane lifetime. The development of an optimal cleaning strategy should therefore have a direct implication on the process economics. Recently, the use of ultrasound has attracted considerable interest as an alternative approach to the conventional methods. In the present study, we have studied the ultrasonic cleaning of polysulfone ultrafiltration membranes fouled with dairy whey solutions. The effects of a number of cleaning process parameters have been examined in the presence of ultrasound and results compared with the conventional operation. Experiments were conducted using a small single sheet membrane unit that was immersed totally within an ultrasonic bath. Results show that ultrasonic cleaning improves the cleaning efficiency under all experimental conditions. The ultrasonic effect is more significant in the absence of surfactant, but is less influenced by temperature and transmembrane pressure. Our results suggest that the ultrasonic energy acts primarily by increasing the turbulence within the cleaning solution.