Nuclear magnetic resonance microscopy studies of membrane biofouling

D. A. Graf von der Schulenburg, J. S. Vrouwenvelder, S. A. Creber, M. C.M. van Loosdrecht, M. L. Johns*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


There is a substantial need for novel measurement techniques that enable non-invasive spatially resolved observation of biofouling in nanofiltration (NF) and reverse osmosis (RO) membrane modules. Such measurements will enhance our understanding of the key design and operational parameters influencing biofilm fouling. In this study we demonstrate the first application of nuclear magnetic resonance microscopy (NMR) to a spiral wound reverse osmosis (RO) membrane module. The presented NMR protocols allow the extraction of the evolution with biofouling of (i) the spatial biofilm distribution in the membrane module, (ii) the spatially resolved velocity field and (iii) displacement propagators, which are distributions of molecular displacement of a passive tracer (in our case, water) in the membrane. From these measurements, the effective membrane surface area is quantified. Despite the opaque nature of membrane design, NMR microscopy is shown to be able to provide a non-invasive quantitative measurement of RO membrane biofouling and its impact on hydrodynamics and mass transport. Minimal biofilm growth is observed to have a substantial impact on flow field homogeneity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-44
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Biofouling
  • NMR
  • Nanofiltration
  • Reverse osmosis
  • Spiral wound membrane

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Filtration and Separation


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