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Membrane Bioreactors for Wastewater Treatment

Stephenson, T; Judd, S; Jefferson, B; Brindle, K. IWA, 2001, 179pp, 50, ISBN 1-900222-07-8

This is a fairly accessible introduction to the subject, written by a group of researchers originally from Cranfield University. Researchers and conferences at Cranfield are therefore well represented in the papers selected in support of the text.

After a brief introduction to the technology and its underlying process engineering principles, it proceeds by logical stages through the different types of MBRs available to case studies of commercial plant. En-route, it takes us through a fairly extensive literature review. The target audience are graduate chemical engineers or allied technologists, already working in the wastewater field. Basic engineering concepts are therefore not explained.

Despite the comments of a researcher in the field I spoke to, this is not a “beginner’s book”. It is set at a level where it is possible for this audience to read and absorb the contents of the book from end to end in a leisurely day or two. The overall treatment is more qualitative than quantitative, with very few equations in the text, and a wealth of condensed research conclusions, expressed more often verbally than algebraically. It would represent a useful text for someone embarking upon a PhD in the area, as well as for someone involved in designing, commissioning or troubleshooting a full scale plant. Also, anyone working in water that wants to keep up with this technology would find it cheaper and quicker to read this book than to attend Cranfield’s MBR conference or plough through all of the papers and company literature.

It would be lax of me however not to mention the high typographic error count in the book. Not since the heyday of the Grauniad, or more precisely the advent of the spell checker have there been so many misspellings and missing words in commercially produced text. This is no more than an irritation other than where it finds its way into units, equations, and tables of figures, as it does in a few places. Other than in these instances, the sense of the text is not lost.

The authors recognise the somewhat rough and ready character of the book, and say that if there were to be a second edition, the many mistakes will be corrected. Notwithstanding these comments, the book represents a handy pre-digested monograph on the state of the art in membrane bioreactors for people who already know a fair bit about related areas. Although it is a bit pricey at 50 for a book that is the size of a novel, it will probably be worth it in terms of time saved for a quick update on this popular subject.

Despite its flaws, the book is apparently flying off the shelves, and a second printing has been carried out, the entire first printing having been sold in the four months since the book came out. The publishers are going to attempt to address the mistakes in the 3rd printing, which is yet to be commissioned. A person who is considering buying the book may well be best to wait for this improved version, as it will be a better product, presumably for the same price.