Surface Modification of Ceramic Membranes with Thin-film Deposition Methods for Wastewater Treatment


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Membrane fouling, which is caused by deposition/adsorption of foulants on the surface or within membrane pores, still remains a bottleneck that hampers the widespread application of membrane bioreactor (MBR) technology for wastewater treatment. Recently membrane surface modification has proved to be a useful method in water/wastewater treatment to improve the surface hydrophilicity of membranes to obtain higher water fluxes and to reduce fouling. In this study, membrane modification was investigated by depositing a thin film of same thickness of TiO2 on the surface of an ultrafiltration alumina membrane. Various thin-film deposition (TFD) methods were employed, i.e. electron-beam evaporation, sputter and atomic layer deposition (ALD), and a comparative study of the methods was conducted to assess fouling inhibition performance in a lab-scale anaerobic MBR (AnMBR) fed with synthetic municipal wastewater. Thorough surface characterization of all modified membranes was carried out along with clean water permeability (CWP) tests and fouling behavior by bovine serum albumin (BSA) adsorption tests. The study showed better fouling inhibition performance of all modified membranes; however the effect varied due to different surface characteristics obtained by different deposition methods. As a result, ALD-modified membrane showed a superior status in terms of surface characteristics and fouling inhibition performance in AnMBR filtration tests. Hence ALD was determined to be the best TFD method for alumina membrane surface modification for this study. ALD-modified membranes were further characterized to determine an optimum thickness of TiO2-film by applying different ALD cycles. ALD treatment significantly improved the surface hydrophilicity of the unmodified membrane. Also ALD-TiO2 modification was observed to reduce the surface roughness of original alumina membrane, which in turn enhanced the anti-fouling properties of modified membranes. Finally, a same thickness of ALD-TiO2 and ALD-SnO2 modified membranes were tested for alginate fouling inhibition performance in a dead-end constant-pressure filtration system. This is the first report on the application of SnO2-modified ceramic membrane for testing its alginate fouling potential; which was determined to be nearly-same for both modified membranes with a negligible amount of difference. This revealed SnO2 as a potential future anti-foulant to be tested for membrane modification/fabrication for application in water/wastewater treatment systems.
Date of AwardDec 2017
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorTorOve Leiknes (Supervisor)


  • Surface Modification
  • Ceramic membrane
  • thin-film deposition
  • Atomic layer deposition
  • membrane fouling
  • Wastewater Treatment

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