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Effect of intermittent ultrasound on controlling membrane fouling with coagulation pre-treatment: Significance of the nature of adsorbed organic matter

  • Yu, W
  • Graham, N
  • Liu, T
Publication Date
Apr 17, 2017
DOI: 10.1016/j.memsci.2017.04.031
Spiral - Imperial College Digital Repository


This study considers the potential advantages of applying intermittent ultrasound to the ultrafiltration (UF) process to control long term membrane fouling in the context of water treatment. By means of parallel, bench-scale tests using traditional coagulation pre-treatment prior to UF, and intermittent ultrasound during the operation (3 min/10 min every 3 days), the development of fouling material, and its nature (e.g. hydrophilic and hydrophobic), within the cake layer and membrane pores, have been evaluated in detail. In particular, the impact of intermittent ultrasound on bacteria growth and the production of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) have been investigated. The results have shown that, compared to a control UF process, intermittent ultrasound reduces both reversible and irreversible fouling, with a 50% reduction in transmembrane pressure development over 60 days of operation. The intermittent ultrasound led to a much thinner cake layer which contained less EPS/biopolymers in the form of polysaccharides (g/g) and protein, as well as DNA concentrations. Material removed from the UF membrane by ultrasound was predominantly of high molecular weight (~100 kDa) and hydrophilic in nature. Compared to the control membrane, pore deposits in the membrane receiving intermittent ultrasound contained much less high molecular weight, biopolymer-type substances, which was consistent with the reduced extent of irreversible fouling observed.

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