Biofouling is a problem that hinders sustainable membrane-based desalination and the stratification of bacterial populations over the biofilm’s height is suggested to compromise the efficiency of cleaning strategies. Some studies reported a base biofilm layer attached to the membrane that is harder to remove. Previous research suggested limiting the concentration of phosphorus in the feed water as a biofouling control strategy. However, the existence of bacterial communities growing under phosphorus-limiting conditions and communities remaining after cleaning is unknown. This study analyzes the bacterial communities developed in biofilms grown in membrane fouling simulators (MFSs) supplied with water with three dosed phosphorus conditions at a constant biodegradable carbon concentration. After biofilm development, biofilm was removed using forward flushing (an easy-to-implement and environmentally friendly method) by increasing the crossflow velocity for one hour. We demonstrate that small changes in phosphorus concentration in the feed water led to (i) different microbial compositions and (ii) different bacterial-cells-to-EPS ratios, while (iii) similar bacterial biofilm populations remained after forward flushing, suggesting a homogenous bacterial community composition along the biofilm height. This study represents an exciting advance towards greener desalination by applying non-expensive physical cleaning methods while manipulating feed water nutrient conditions to prolong membrane system performance and enhance membrane cleanability.
Bibliographical noteKAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-01-27
Acknowledgements: This research received no external funding and was fully funded by King Abdullah University of Science and technology.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Materials Science(all)