Fouling of hollow fibre microfiltration and ultrafiltration membranes by solutions of pure organic compounds and mixtures of these compounds was studied with a backwashable membrane filtration apparatus. Small molecular weight compounds resulted in little fouling, while their polymeric analogues resulted in more severe fouling. Neutrally charged dextran resulted in minor, irreversible fouling, that was considered to be associated with blocking of small pores. Cationically charged chitosan produced gross fouling for which the extent of reversibility increased with salt addition. Anionically charged alginic acid resulted in gross irreversible fouling, except when being filtered by a hydrophilic membrane in the absence of calcium where a high degree of flux recovery was observed. Calcium addition to the alginic acid solutions resulted in gross fouling of all membranes and calcium bridging was considered to be responsible for this behaviour. Greater fouling occurred on the hydrophilic membrane compared to the hydrophobic membranes for bovine serum albumin (BSA) solutions, and this was considered to be due to physical blocking of pores, because addition of calcium resulted in lower flux declines. Addition of BSA and calcium to alginic acid solutions resulted in lower flux recoveries for the alginic acid system, consistent with the proposition that interactions between polysaccharide and other compounds are required for irreversible fouling on hydrophilic membranes.
Keywords: fouling, microfiltration, natural organic matter, ultrafiltration