Membranes and Organic Fouling

Organic fouling in membranes depends on the specific characteristics of the organic matter in the feed water. The present work seeks to use fluorescence techniques to characterize organic matter throughout the membrane system in order to determine specific signals that are predictive of high fouling events.

Fluorescence Excitation Emission Matrices (EEM) provide a unique fingerprint of organic carbon in a given water sample.  EEM from many water samples taken throughout the membrane separation process can be analyzed using multi-dimensional statistical methods, such as Parallel Factor Analysis, and correlated to fouling parameters, such as flux decline.  In addition to predicting membrane fouling, reducing organic fouling is a critical part of maintaining membrane performance.

Nanoparticle surface modification is used in membrane studies to reduce fouling by preventing adsorption of organic matter to membrane surfaces. Application of organic carbon fluorescence characterization in membrane studies with nanoparticle surface modification will enable a deeper understanding of how surface modifications affect organic fouling and the behavior of organic matter throughout the membrane system.

In future work, the fluorescence detection method could be implemented within a real-time detection system to allow membrane treatment plant operators to detect waters likely to increase fouling and to apply additional pre-treatment to reduce costs associated with fouling and cleaning cycles.