Inhibition of biofouling by modification of forward osmosis membrane using quaternary ammonium cation

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In the operation of the forward osmosis (FO) process, biofouling of the membrane is a potentially serious problem. Development of an FO membrane with antibacterial properties could contribute to a reduction in biofouling. In this study, quaternary ammonium cation (QAC), a widely used biocidal material, was conjugated with a silane coupling agent (3-(trimethoxysilyl)-propyldimethyloctadecyl ammonium chloride) and used to modify an FO membrane to confer antibacterial properties. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) demonstrated that the conjugated QAC was successfully immobilized on the FO membrane via covalent bonding. Bacterial viability on the QAC-modified membrane was confirmed via colony count method and visualized via bacterial viability assay. The QAC membrane decreased the viability of Escherichia coli to 62% and Staphylococcus aureus to 77% versus the control membrane. Inhibition of biofilm formation on the QAC modified membrane was confirmed via anti-biofilm tests using the drip-flow reactor and FO unit, resulting in 64% and 68% inhibition in the QAC-modified membrane against the control membrane, respectively. The results demonstrate the effectiveness of the modified membrane in reducing bacterial viability and inhibiting biofilm formation, indicating the potential of QAC-modified membranes to decrease operation costs incurred by biofouling.

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