Effect of solution chemistry on the surface property of reverse osmosis membranes under seawater conditions

Juhee Yang, Sangyoup Lee, Eunsu Lee, Joohee Lee, Seungkwan Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Recent studies have shown that the rougher, less negatively charged, and more hydrophobic membranes are prone to organic fouling. These surface characteristics of RO membranes, however, have been usually determined at very low TDS conditions, while seawater contains ten to thousand times more TDS than surface and even brackish waters. In this study, three aromatic polyamide thin-fi lm composite (TFC) RO membranes were characterized for chemical and physical properties. Membrane characterization was performed under both the low (i.e., 10 mg/L) and high (i.e., 35,000 mg/L) TDS conditions to see how these surface characteristics are aff ected by seawater-level TDS. Results showed that both the chemical and physical surface properties were altered signifi cantly under the high TDS condition with becoming more favorable to membrane fouling, namely, less negatively charged, more hydrophobic, and rougher. Mechanisms responsible for these changes such as charge screening and osmotic swelling are delineated. The way of changing in surface characteristics under the high TDS condition was substantially diff erent with respect to the surface characteristics determined at the low TDS condition. It was confi rmed that the chemical and physical properties were interrelated and, thus, variations in chemical properties with respect to the solution chemistry applied led to changes in physical properties and vice versa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-161
Number of pages14
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Oct

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs (MLTM) for supporting this study through Sea-water Engineering & Architecture of High Eff i-ciency Reverse Osmosis (seaHERO) program.


  • Hydrophobicity
  • Membrane surface characterization
  • RO membranes
  • Seawater TDS
  • Surface charge
  • Surface roughness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Materials Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering


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