Development and Performance Evaluation of an Innovative Anti-Biofouling Reverse Osmosis Membrane for Water Purification Applications Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Atkinson, Ariel
    • Affiliation: Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering
  • Biofouling is a main operational problem plaguing membrane use in the water purification industry. Biofouling limits water productivity, water quality, membrane life, and increases operational costs. Therefore, developing an effective, widely applicable technology to control biofouling would facilitate membrane implementation and enable efficient use of membrane technology. Accordingly, the overall goal of this dissertation was to develop and evaluate the performance of a novel anti-biofouling reverse osmosis (RO) membrane(s) with 2-aminoimidazoles (2-AIs) incorporated as the active compound. 2-AIs are non-biocidal, bioactive compounds that actively disrupt biofilm formation mechanisms. 2-AIs are unique because they are one of the only compound classes that actively disrupts biofilm formation across different bacteria phyla, classes, and orders. To achieve the overall goal, the following specific objectives were met: (1) to develop an anti-biofouling water purification membrane(s) through 2-AI incorporation into active layers of commercially available RO membranes, (2) to develop an anti-biofouling water purification membrane(s) through 2-AI incorporation into active layers of RO membranes during active layer casting, (3) to characterize 2-AI membrane(s) performance in terms of biofouling inhibition, water productivity, and contaminant removal. Experimental results led to the following conclusions: (i) 2-AI membranes significantly inhibited Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms by 39-96% (p=0.002-0.12) due to the presence of 2-AI and not changes in membrane physico-chemical properties. (ii) Compared to (2-AI lacking) control membranes, 2-AI incorporation decreased initial membrane water permeability by 0-44% and salt rejection by -0.4-4.3 percentage points, without efforts to optimize these parameters. (iii) Incorporating 2-AI into active layers of commercial RO membranes by activating carboxylic acid groups with 1-ethyl-3-(3-dimethylaminopropyl)carbodiimide produced a more effective membrane than incorporating 2-AI during active layer casting. (iv) Under operationally realistic conditions (e.g., using cross-flow and real waters), biofilm formation was significantly inhibited (98%, p<0.001) by 2-AI membranes; and when biofilm formation was a fouling mechanism, 2-AI membranes had higher water permeability (10-11%) and organics rejection (11-12 percentage points) than (2-AI-lacking) control membranes. Overall, this work constitutes the proof-of-concept for 2-AI membranes and 2-AI incorporation represents a promising, novel enhancement for biofouling prevention and control. Based on these results, further 2-AI membrane optimization and performance testing is warranted.
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  • In Copyright
  • Gold, Avram
  • Coronell, Orlando
  • Stewart, Jill
  • Farré, Maria José
  • Weinberg, Howard
  • Zhang, Zhenfa
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2017

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