Analysis of protein fouling during ultrafiltration using a two-layer membrane model

Russell F. Boyd, Andrew L. Zydney

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31 Scopus citations


Protein fouling can significantly alter both the flux and retention characteristics of ultrafiltration membranes. There has, however, been considerable controversy over the nature of this fouling layer. In this study, hydraulic permeability and dextran sieving data were obtained both before and after albumin adsorption and/or filtration using polyethersulfone ultrafiltration membranes. The dextran molecular weight distributions were analyzed by gel permeation chromatography to evaluate the sieving characteristics over a broad range of solute size. Protein fouling caused a significant reduction in the dextran sieving coefficients, with very different effects seen for the diffusive and convective contributions to dextran transport. The changes in dextran sieving coefficients and diffusive permeabilities were analyzed using a two-layer membrane model in which a distinct protein layer is assumed to form on the upstream surface of the membrane. The data suggest that the protein layer formed during filtration was more tightly packed than that formed by simple static adsorption. Hydrodynamic calculations indicated that the pore size of the protein layer remained relatively constant throughout the adsorption or filtration, but the thickness of this layer increased with increasing exposure time. These results provide important insights into the nature of protein fouling during ultrafiltration and its effects on membrane transport.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-460
Number of pages10
JournalBiotechnology and bioengineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 20 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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