Despite extensive research efforts, past and present strategies to control biofouling problems in spiral-wound nanofiltration and reverse osmosis membranes have not been successful under all circumstances. Gaining insight in the biofouling process is a first necessity. Based on recent insights, an overview is given of 12 potential complementary approaches to solve biofouling. Combinations of approaches may be more efficient in biofouling control than a single approach. A single approach must be 100% effective, while in combination each individual approach can be partially effective while the combination is still efficient. An integrated Approach for Biofouling Control (ABC) is proposed, based on three corner stones: (i) equipment design and operation, (ii) biomass growth conditions, and (iii) cleaning agents as a framework to control biofouling. While past and present strategies addressed mainly membranes and microorganisms, i.e. removal or inactivation of biomass, this ABC-approach addresses the total membrane filtration system. It is anticipated that this integral approach will enable a more rational and effective control of biofouling. Although in this stage chemical cleaning and biofouling inhibitor dosage seem unavoidable to control biofouling, it is expected that in future—because of sustainability and costs reasons—membrane systems will be developed without or with minimal need for chemical cleaning and dosing. Three potential scenarios for biofouling control are proposed based on (i) biofouling tolerant spiral wound membrane systems, (ii) capillary membranes, and (iii) phosphate limitation.
Keywords: biofilm, biological fouling control strategy, Ferritin, membrane filtration, membrane fouling simulator, NF, phosphorus removal, RO