Role of adsorption in combined membrane fouling by biopolymers coexisting with inorganic particles

Xu di Chen, Zhi Wang, Dan yang Liu, Kang Xiao, Jing Guan, Yuefeng F. Xie, Xiao mao Wang, T. David Waite

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26 Scopus citations


This study was conducted in order to obtain a better understanding of the combined fouling by biopolymers coexisting with inorganic particles from the aspects of fouling index, fouling layer structure and biopolymer−particle interactions. Calcium alginate was used as the model biopolymer and Fe2O3, Al2O3, kaolin, and SiO2 were used as model inorganic particles. Results showed that the combined fouling differed greatly among the four types of inorganic particles. The differences were attributed particularly to the different adsorption capacities for calcium alginate by the particles with this capacity decreasing in the order of Fe2O3, Al2O3, kaolin and SiO2. Particle size measurement and electron microscopic observation indicated the formation of agglomerates between calcium alginate and those inorganic particles exhibiting strong adsorption capacity. A structure was proposed for the combined fouling layer comprised of a backbone cake layer of alginate−inorganic particle agglomerates with the pores partially filled with discontinuous calcium alginate gels. The filterability of the fouling layer was primarily determined by the abundance of the gels. The strength of physical interaction between calcium alginate and each type of inorganic particle was calculated from the respective surface energies and zeta potentials. Calculation results showed that the extent of physical interaction increased in the order of Al2O3, Fe2O3, kaolin and SiO2, with this order differing from that of adsorption capacity. Chemical interactions may also play an important role in the adsorption of alginate and the consequent combined fouling. High-resolution XPS scans revealed a slight shift of electron binding energies when alginate was adsorbed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-234
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Jan 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pollution
  • General Chemistry
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry


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