Coating of reverse osmosis membranes with amphiphilic copolymers for biofouling control

Szilard Bucs, Rodrigo Valladares Linares, Amber Siddiqui, Asif Matin, Zafarullah Khan, Mark C.M. van Loosdrecht, Rong Yang, Minghui Wang, Karen K. Gleason, Joop C. Kruithof, Johannes S. Vrouwenvelder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Surface coating of membranes may be a promising option to control biofilm development and biofouling impact on membrane performance of spiral-wound reverse osmosis (RO) systems. The objective of this study was to investigate the impact of an amphiphilic copolymer coating on biofilm formation and biofouling control. The coating was composed of both hydrophilic and hydrophobic monomers hydroxyethyl methacrylate (HEMA) and perfluorodecyl acrylate (PFA), respectively. Commercial RO membranes were coated with HEMA-PFA copolymer film. Long and short term biofouling studies with coated and uncoated membranes and feed spacer were performed using membrane fouling simulators (MFSs) operated in parallel, fed with water containing nutrients. For the long-term studies pressure drop development in time was monitored and after eight days the MFSs were opened and the accumulated biofilm on the membrane and spacer sheets was quantified and characterized. The presence of the membrane coating was determined using X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). Results showed that the amphiphilic coating (i) delayed biofouling (a lower pressure drop increase by a factor of 3 and a lower accumulated active biomass amount by a factor of 6), (ii) influenced the biofilm composition (23% lower polysaccharides and 132% higher protein content) and (iii) was still completely present on the membrane at the end of the biofouling study, showing that the coating was strongly attached to the membrane surface. Using coated membranes and feed spacers in combination with advanced cleaning strategies may be a suitable way to control biofouling.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalDesalination and Water Treatment
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: The research reported in this publication was supported by funding from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and Evides Industriewater. The authors are grateful to the Center for Clean Water and Clean Energy at King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals (KFUPM) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for funding the research via project no. R5-CW-08. Al-Saeed (KFUPM) is appreciated for XPS analyses of membrane samples.


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