IWA Publishing

Surface modification of reverse osmosis membranes with zwitterionic polymer to reduce biofouling


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The zwitterionic homopolymer poly[2-(methacryloyloxy)ethyl-dimethyl-(3-sulfopropyl) ammonium hydroxide was coated onto the surface of commercial polyamide reverse osmosis (RO) membranes. Aqueous solutions of the polymer at different concentrations were applied to modify the polyamide membranes through an in situ surface coating procedure. After membrane modification, cross-flow filtration testing was used to test the antifouling potential of the modified membranes. The obtained data were compared with experimental data for unmodified membranes. Each test was done by cross-flow filtering tap water for 60 hours. Yeast extract was added as a nutrient source for the naturally occurring bacteria in tap water, to accelerate bacteria growth. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, contact angle, scanning electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, and permeation tests were employed to characterize membrane properties. The results confirmed that modifying the membranes enhanced their antifouling properties and cleaning efficiency, the fouling resistance to bacteria improving due to the increased hydrophilicity of the membrane surface after coating. In addition, the water permeability and salt rejection improved. This in situ surface treatment approach for RO membranes could be very important for modifying membranes in their original module assemblies as it increases water production and reduces the salt content.

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