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Water Research
44, No. 12, 2010; Pages: 3545 - 3554

Systematic analysis of micromixers to minimize biofouling on reverse osmosis membranes

Susan J. Altman, Lucas K. McGrath, Howland D.T. Jones, Andres Sanchez, Rachel Noek, Paul Clem, Adam Cook, Clifford K. Ho

Sandia National Laboratories, Geochemistry Department, P.O. Box 5800, MS-0754, Albuquerque, NM 87185-0754, USA.


Micromixers, UV-curable epoxy traces printed on the surface of a reverse osmosis membrane, were tested on a cross-flow system to determine their success at reducing biofouling. Biofouling was quantified by measuring the rate of permeate flux decline and the median bacteria concentration on the surface of the membrane (as determined by fluorescence intensity counts due to nucleic acid stains as measured by hyperspectral imaging). The micromixers do not appear to significantly increase the pressure needed to maintain the same initial permeate flux and salt rejection. Chevrons helped prevent biofouling of the membranes in comparison with blank membranes. The chevron design controlled where the bacteria adhered to the membrane surface. However, blank membranes with spacers had a lower rate of permeate flux decline than the membranes with chevrons despite having greater bacteria concentrations on their surfaces. With better optimization of the micromixer design, the micromixers could be used to control where the bacteria will adhere to the surface and create a more biofouling resistant membrane that will help to drive down the cost of water treatment.

Keywords: Micromixers; Biofouling; Reverse osmosis; Water treatment; Permeate flux; Hyperspectral imaging



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