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Membrane fouling

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Title: Membrane fouling  
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Subject: Membrane technology, Nanofiltration, Membrane, Fouling, Water technology
Collection: Fouling, Membrane Technology, Water Technology
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Membrane fouling

Membrane fouling is a process whereby a oils, polyelectrolytes, humics) and scaling (mineral precipitates).[2]

Fouling can be divided into reversible and irreversible fouling based on the attachment strength of particles to the membrane surface. Reversible fouling can be removed by a strong shear force or backwashing. Formation of a strong matrix of fouling layer with the solute during a continuous filtration process will result in reversible fouling being transformed into an irreversible fouling layer. Irreversible fouling is the strong attachment of particles which cannot be removed by physical cleaning.[3]


  • Influential factors 1
  • Measurement 2
  • Fouling control 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5

Influential factors

Factors that affect membrane fouling:

Recent fundamental studies indicate that membrane fouling is influenced by numerous factors such as system hydrodynamics, operating conditions, membrane properties, and material property (solute). At low pressure, low feed concentration, and high feed velocity, concentration polarisation effects are minimal and flux is almost proportional to trans-membrane pressure difference. However, in the high pressure range, flux becomes almost independent of applied pressure.[4] Deviation from linear flux-pressure relation is due to concentration polarisation. At low feed flow rate or with high feed concentration, the limiting flux situation is observed even at relatively low pressures.


Flux and transmembrane pressure (TMP) are the best indicators of membrane fouling. Under constant flux operation, TMP increases to compensate for the fouling. On the other hand, under constant pressure operation, flux declines due to membrane fouling.

Fouling control

Even though membrane fouling is an inevitable phenomenon during membrane filtration, it can be minimised by strategies such as cleaning, appropriate membrane selection and choice of operating conditions.

Membranes can be cleaned physically, biologically or chemically. Physical cleaning includes sponges, water jets or backflushing using a acids and bases to remove foulants and impurities.

Another strategy to minimise membrane fouling is the use of the appropriate membrane for a specific operation. The nature of the feed water must first be known; then a membrane that is less prone to fouling with that solution is chosen. For aqueous filtration, a hydrophilic membrane is preferred.

Operating conditions during membrane filtration are also vital, as they may affect fouling conditions during filtration. For instance, crossflow filtration is always preferred to dead end filtration, because turbulence generated during the filtration entails a thinner deposit layer and therefore minimises fouling (e.g. tubular pinch effect).

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Baker, R.W. (2004). Membrane Technology and Applications, England: John Wiley & Sons Ltd
  3. ^ Choi, H., Zhang, K., Dionysiou, D.D.,Oerther, D.B.& Sorial, G.A. (2005) Effect of permeate flux and tangential flow on membrane fouling for wastewater treatment. J. Separation and Purification Technology 45: 68-78.
  4. ^ Ghosh, R., 2006, Principles of Bioseparation Engineering, World Scientific Publishing Pvt Ltd.
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