Surface chemical heterogeneity of polyamide RO membranes: Measurements and implications

Youngjin Kim, Sangyoup Lee, Jihoon Kuk, Seungkwan Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The chemical heterogeneity (charge distribution) of polyamide reverse osmosis (RO) membrane surfaces and its influence on membrane fouling were investigated using atomic force microscopy (AFM). Negatively charged carboxyl modified latex (CML) and positively charged aliphatic amine latex (AAL) particles were employed to make AFM colloidal probes. The adhesive forces were significantly higher with the AAL probe due to negatively charged membrane surfaces. The chemical heterogeneity measured by AFM colloidal probes indicated that RO membranes could have chemically heterogeneous surfaces even if they exhibited similar average surface properties including zeta potential, contact angle and surface roughness. By performing fouling experiments with two commercial RO membranes of different chemical heterogeneities, it was demonstrated that RO membrane with high chemical heterogeneity was more prone to fouling, suggesting that surface charge distribution is one of the key factors governing RO membrane fouling. Consequently, surface chemical heterogeneity provides a new tool for accessing membrane fouling mechanisms and a novel concept for developing fouling resistant RO membranes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-160
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Jul 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from the Fundamental R&D Program for Technology of World Premier Materials funded by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, Republic of Korea ( 10037715 ).


  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Membrane fouling
  • Membrane surface characterization
  • RO membrane
  • Surface chemical heterogeneity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Surface chemical heterogeneity of polyamide RO membranes: Measurements and implications'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this