Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2015MA436B

Enhancing the Flux of Ultrafiltration Membranes using Nanofibers

Institute: Massachuseits
Year Established: 2015 Start Date: 2015-03-01 End Date: 2016-02-29
Total Federal Funds: $5,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $10,050

Principal Investigators: Jessica Schiffman

Abstract: Ultrafiltration (UF) membranes are widely considered the “state-of-the-art” material for water treatment and wastewater reuse; they can effectively remove emulsified oils, metal hydroxides, colloids, emulsions, dispersed material, suspended solids, and waterborne pathogens from drinking water. In Massachusetts, UF is used for direct filtration applications and synergistically as a pre-treatment for reverse osmosis systems. Unfortunately, deleterious effects quickly arise when bacteria colonize into microbial consortia called biofilms on the surface of these membranes. Even with only moderate biofouling, the operating pressure has to be increased to maintain a constant flux, which leads to higher energy usage. This proposal embarks on a new generation of antifouling UF membranes that will last longer in operational systems. Instead of relying on biocides or harsh chemical cleaners, we will use surface topography as an environmentally benign approach to control biological fouling. Our specific aims are to systematically electrospin fibers with two different geometries, random and aligned. Since this proposal aims to decouple surface chemistry from morphology, all fibers will be electrospun from a robust polymer familiar to water purification membranes, polysulfone. In-house fabricated polysulfone UF membranes enhanced by a thin, porous, and robust layer of fibers will be characterized for biofouling resistance and retention of high flux. Our long term goal is to establish a “greener” antifouling strategy for high flux UF membranes.