A Study on Biofouling and Cleaning of Anion Exchange Membranes for Reverse Electrodialysis

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Abstract

This study covers the modification, (bio)fouling characterization, use, and cleaning of commercial heterogeneous anion exchange membranes (AEMs) to evaluate their feasibility for reverse electrodialysis (RED) applications. A surface modification with poly (acrylic) acid resulted in an improved monovalent perm-selectivity (decreased sulfate membrane transport rate). Moreover, we evaluated the (bio)fouling potential of the membrane using sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS), sodium dodecyl benzenesulfonate (SDBS), and Aeromonas hydrophila as model organic foulants and a bio-foulant, respectively. A detailed characterization of the AEMs (water contact angle, ion exchange capacity (IEC), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), cyclic voltammetry (CV), and Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectra) was carried out, verifying that the presence of such foulants reduces IEC and the maximum current obtained by CV. However, only SDS and SDBS affected the contact angle values. Cleaning of the biofouled membranes using a sodium hypochlorite aqueous solution allows for (partially) recovering their initial properties. Furthermore, this work includes a fouling characterization using real surface and sea water matrixes, confirming the presence of several types of fouling microorganisms in natural streams. A lower adhesion of microorganisms (measured in terms of total bacteria counts) was observed for the modified membranes compared to the unmodified ones. Finally, we propose a cleaning strategy to mitigate biofouling in AEMs that could be easily applied in RED systems for an enhanced long-term process performance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number697
Number of pages15
JournalMembranes
Volume12
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

Keywords

  • anion exchange membranes
  • biofouling
  • membrane cleaning
  • reverse electrodialysis

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