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Bioresource Technology
Vol. 229, 2017, Pages: 231–235

In-situ biofouling assessment in spacer filled channels using optical coherence tomography (OCT): 3D biofilm thickness mapping

Luca Fortunato, TorOve Leiknes

Water Desalination and Reuse Center (WDRC), Biological and Environmental Science & Engineering (BESE), King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Thuwal 23955-6900, Saudi Arabia.


Membrane systems for water purification can be seriously hampered by biofouling. The use of optical coherence tomography (OCT) to investigate biofilms in membrane systems has recently increased due to the ability to do the characterization in-situ and non-destructively. The OCT biofilm thickness map is presented for the first time as a tool to assess biofilm spatial distribution on a surface. The map allows the visualization and evaluation of the biofilm formation and growth in membrane filtration systems through the use of a false color scale. The biofilm development was monitored with OCT to evaluate the suitability of the proposed approach. A 3D time series analysis of biofilm development in a spacer filled channel representative of a spiral-wound membrane element was performed. The biofilm thickness map enables the time-resolved and spatial-resolved evaluation and visualization of the biofilm deposition pattern in-situ non-destructively.

Graphical abstract

Keywords: Spacer filled channel; Feed spacer; Optical coherence tomography; Biofouling; Biomass.

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