Biofouling of reverse osmosis membranes: Microbial quorum sensing and fouling propensity

Sejin Kim, Sangyoup Lee, Seungkwan Hong, Youngsook Oh, Mijin Seoul, Jihyang Kweon, Taehyun Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Fouled RO membranes from a real water treatment plant were analyzed biochemically to investigate the role of quorum sensing in controlling the rate and the extent of biofilm formation on the membrane surface. The results showed that 60% of bacterial species found on the fouled membrane surface contribute to biofilm formation through the active intraspecies as well as interspecies communication. It was confirmed that N-acylated homoserine lactones (AHL) produced from microorganisms involved in the quorum sensing transferred bacterial signal. In addition, flow field-flow fractionation (Fl-FFF) analyses demonstrated that most microorganisms contributing to biofilm formation through quorum sensing exhibited favorable adsorption on the membrane surfaces. The skewness values of these microorganisms were noticeably greater than those of organic macromolecules (i.e., natural organic matter) and particles. The study suggests that biochemical control of interfering quorum sensing could be an effective alternative to control biofilm formation and, thus, the reduction in biofouling of RO membranes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-315
Number of pages13
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Oct

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation (KOSEF) grant funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) (No. R01-2006-000-10946-0).


  • Biofouling
  • Fl-FFF
  • Fouling propensity
  • Quorum sensing
  • RO membranes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering


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