Alginate block fractions and their effects on membrane fouling
Date of Issue2013
School of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute
Alginate has been commonly used as a model foulant in studies of membrane organic fouling. As a complex polymer, alginate is composed of two different monomers, namely M ((1 → 4) linked β-D-mannopyranuronic acid) and G ((1 → 4) linked α-L-gulopyranuronic acid) which are randomly arranged into MG-, MM- and GG-blocks. So far, little information is available about fouling propensity of each block in microfiltration. In this study, microfiltration experiments were conducted respectively with MG-, MM- and GG-blocks separated from alginate under defined conditions. Results showed the severest fouling in the filtration of MG-block, and the least flux decline in the filtration of MM-block. The initial pore blocking was found to be responsible for the fouling observed in MG-block filtration, while the cake layer formed on membrane surface during the MM-block filtration could serve as a pre-filter that prevented membrane from further pore blocking. In order to look into fouling mechanisms, the effects of transparent exopolymeric particles (TEP) on membrane fouling were also studied. TEP were found to form through aggregation or cross-link of alginate blocks. As TEP were bigger than original alginate blocks, they could facilitate the formation of cake layer on membrane surface. It was observed that more TEP were produced from MM-blocks than from MG-blocks in solutions. This in turn explained why cake resistance was dominant in the filtration of MM-blocks as compared to MG-blocks. The analysis by the extended Derjaguin-Landau-Verwey-Overbeek (XDLVO) theory further revealed that MM-blocks had lowest cohesive interaction energy among all three alginate blocks, which favoured aggregation of MM-blocks, and ultimately leading to the formation of more TEP. This study provided insights into the roles of different alginate blocks in development of membrane fouling, and suggested that the membrane fouling would be related to molecular structure of alginate.