Biofouling Control in Spiral-Wound Membrane Systems: Impact of Feed Spacer Modification and Biocides

  • Amber Siddiqui

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


High-quality drinking water can be produced with membrane-based filtration processes like reverse osmosis and nanofiltration. One of the major problems in these membrane systems is biofouling that reduces the membrane performance, increasing operational costs. Current biofouling control strategies such as pre-treatment, membrane modification, and chemical cleaning are not sufficient in all cases. Feed spacers are thin (0.8 mm), complex geometry meshes that separate membranes in a module. The main objective of this research was to evaluate whether feed spacer modification is a suitable strategy to control biofouling. Membrane fouling simulator studies with six feed spacers showed differences in biofouled spacer performance, concluding that (i) spacer geometry influences biofouling impact and (ii) biofouling studies are essential for evaluation of spacer biofouling impact. Computed tomography (CT) was found as a suitable technique to obtain three-dimensional (3D) measurements of spacers, enabling more representative mathematical modeling of hydraulic behavior of spacers in membrane systems. A strategy for developing, characterizing, and testing of spacers by numerical modeling, 3D printing of spacers and experimental membrane fouling simulator studies was developed. The combination of modeling and experimental testing of 3D printed spacers is a promising strategy to develop advanced spacers aiming to reduce the impact of biofilm formation on membrane performance and to improve the cleanability of spiral-wound membrane systems.
Date of AwardDec 2016
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorJohannes Vrouwenvelder (Supervisor)


  • Biofouling
  • Modified spaces
  • biocides
  • Desalination
  • reverse osmosis
  • Membranes

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