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Water Res. 2007 Sep;41(17):3812-22. Epub 2007 Jun 8.

Transition in fouling mechanism in microfiltration of a surface water.

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Graduate School of Engineering, Division of Built Environment, Hokkaido University, N13W8, Sapporo 060-8628, Japan.


The main disadvantage of membrane filtration is membrane fouling, which remains as the major obstacle for more efficient use of this technology. Information about the constituents that cause fouling is indispensable for more efficient operation. We examined the changes in both foulant characteristics and membrane morphology by performing the pilot-scale filtration test using one microfiltration membrane. During the operation, we cut the membrane fibers three times, and the components that caused irreversible fouling were extracted by acid or alkaline solution. We found that the characteristic of inorganic matter extracted by acid solution completely differed depending on the filtration period. A large amount of iron was extracted in the second chemical cleaning, while manganese was the dominant component of the extracted inorganic matter in the third chemical cleaning. The analysis of Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) and cross polarization magic angle spinning carbon-13 (CPMAS (13)C) nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) demonstrated that the contribution of humic substances and carbohydrate in the organic foulant had increased as fouling developed. The changes in the major foulant have no relation with the fluctuation in feed water. The analysis of membrane morphology illustrated that the cake layer started to build up after the blockage of membrane pores. Based on the above results, we hypothesized the following fouling mechanism: the pores were covered or narrowed with relatively large particles such as iron, carbohydrate or protein; small particles such as manganese or humic substances blocked the narrowed pores; and finally an irreversible cake layer started to build up on the membrane surface.

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