Rapid novel test for the determination of biofouling potential on reverse osmosis membranes

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

A novel method was proposed to determine biofouling potential by direct analysis of a reverse osmosis (RO) membrane through fluorescence intensity analysis of biofilm formed on the membrane surface, thereby incorporating fouling tendencies of both feedwater and membrane. Evaluation of the biofouling potential on the RO membrane was done by accelerated biofilm formation through soaking of membranes in high biofouling potential waters obtained by adding microorganisms and glucose in test waters. The biofilm formed on the soaked membrane was quantified by fluorescence intensity microplate analysis. The soaking method's capability in detecting biofilm formation was confirmed when percentage coverage obtained through fluorescence microscopy and intensity values exhibited a linear correlation (R2 = 0.96). Continuous cross-flow experiments confirmed the ability and reliability of the soaking method in giving biofouling potential on RO membranes when a good correlation (R2 = 0.87) between intensity values of biofilms formed on the membrane during soaking and filtration conditions was obtained. Applicability of the test developed was shown when three commercially available polyamide (PA) RO membranes were assessed for biofouling potential. This new method can also be applied for the determination of biofouling potential in water with more than 3.6 mg L−1 easily degradable organic carbon.

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