Evaluation of surface properties of reverse osmosis membranes on the initial biofouling stages under no filtration condition

Wonil Lee, Chang Hoon Ahn, Seungkwan Hong, Seunghyun Kim, Seockheon Lee, Youngbin Baek, Jeyong Yoon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Citations (Scopus)


In order to evaluate the effect of membrane surface properties on the initial stage of biofouling, in the reverse osmosis (RO) membrane process, initial bacterial adhesion and biofilm formation experiments were performed under no filtration condition. In this study, five commercialized polyamide thin-film composite RO membranes (SW30HRLE, SW30HR (Dow FilmTec Co., USA), TM820 (Toray Co., Japan), RE-BE, RE-FE (Woongjin Chemical Co., Korea)) were chosen and their surface properties such as surface charge, roughness, hydrophobicity and surface morphology were measured. For examining initial bacterial adhesion, a flow channel reactor was employed for 3 h, while for examining a biofilm formation, the CDC reactor was employed for 48 h. Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 tagged with GFP was selected as a model bacterial strain. Major findings in this study indicate that although the initial bacterial cell adhesion in a flow channel reactor indicated more bacterial cells attachment on the membrane surface with higher hydrophobicity, the extent of biofilm grown in CDC reactor for 48 h became similar regardless of the difference of the membrane surface properties, indicating that the membrane surface properties become a less important factor affecting the biofilm growth on the membrane surface. This finding will be helpful in improving the understanding of biofouling issue occurring in the real RO membrane system, although practical implication is somewhat limited since this study was performed under no filtration condition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-122
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Apr 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant (code# C106A1520001-06A085500121 ) from Plant Technology Advancement Program funded by Ministry of Construction & Transportation of Korean government and the WCU (World Class University) program through the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (400-2008-0230). We are appreciated to Dow FilmTec Co. (USA), Toray Co. (Japan) and Woongjin Chemical Co. (Korea) for kind providing the membranes for this study.


  • Extracellular polymeric substances (EPS)
  • Hydrophobicity
  • Membrane biofouling
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm
  • Reverse osmosis (RO) membrane

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Filtration and Separation


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