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Journal of Membrane Science
Volume 563, 2018, Pages 505-512

Novel insights into the role of Pseudomonas quinolone signal in the control of reverse osmosis membrane biofouling

Douglas Ricea,b, Ana C.Barriosa,b, Zhiwei Xiaoa,b, Anne Boglerc, Edo Bar-Zeevc, Francois Perreaulta,b

School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, Arizona State University, United States.


This study investigates the biofouling resistance of modified reverse osmosis (RO) feed spacers. Control spacers (made of polypropylene) were functionalized with a biocidal coating (silver), hydrophilic (SiO2 nanoparticles) or superhydrophobic (TMPSi-TiO2nanoparticles) anti-adhesive coatings, or a hybrid hydrophilic-biocidal coating (graphene oxide). Performance was measured by adhesion assays, viability tests, and permeate flow decline in a bench scale RO system. The control spacers proved to be one of the better performing materials based on bacterial deposition and dynamic RO fouling experiments. The good anti-adhesive properties of the control can be explained by its near ideal surface free energy (SFE). The only surface modification that significantly reduced biofouling compared to the control was the biocidal silver coating, which outperformed the other spacers by all measured indicators. Therefore, future efforts to improve spacer materials for biofouling control should focus on engineering biocidal coatings, rather than anti-adhesive ones.

Graphical abstract

Keywords: Spacers, Desalination, Biofouling, Reverse osmosis, Nanomaterials.

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