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Environ Sci Technol. 2016 Jul 5;50(13):6930-9. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.6b00418. Epub 2016 Jun 17.

Analyzing the Evolution of Membrane Fouling via a Novel Method Based on 3D Optical Coherence Tomography Imaging.

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Singapore Membrane Technology Centre, Nanyang Technological University , 637141, Singapore.
School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Nanyang Technological University , 637141, Singapore.
Department of Civil Engineering, The University of Hong Kong , Hong Kong SAR, China.


The development of novel tools for studying the fouling behavior during membrane processes is critical. This work explored optical coherence tomography (OCT) to quantitatively interpret the formation of a cake layer during a membrane process; the quantitative analysis was based on a novel image processing method that was able to precisely resolve the 3D structure of the cake layer on a micrometer scale. Fouling experiments were carried out with foulants having different physicochemical characteristics (silica nanoparticles and bentonite particles). The cake layers formed at a series of times were digitalized using the OCT-based characterization. The specific deposit (cake volume/membrane surface area) and surface coverage were evaluated as a function of time, which for the first time provided direct experimental evidence for the transition of various fouling mechanisms. Axial stripes were observed in the grayscale plots showing the deposit distribution in the scanned area; this interesting observation was in agreement with the instability analysis that correlated the polarized particle groups with the small disturbances in the boundary layer. This work confirms that the OCT-based characterization is able to provide deep insights into membrane fouling processes and offers a powerful tool for exploring membrane processes with enhanced performance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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