Jump to Main Content
Influence of backwashing on the pore size of hollow fiber ultrafiltration membranes
- Akhondi, Ebrahim, Zamani, Farhad, Law, Adrian W.K., Krantz, William B., Fane, Anthony G., Chew, Jia Wei
- Journal of membrane science 2017 v.521 pp. 33-42
- artificial membranes, bentonite, fouling, humic acids, polyacrylonitrile, porosity, protocols, ultrafiltration
- Backwashing is a common method for fouling mitigation. However, its impact on the pore-size distribution (PSD) of hollow fiber (HF) membranes has not been studied to date. This study quantitatively assessed the effects of filtration and backwashing cycles on the PSDs of polyacrylonitrile (PAN) and polyvinylidene difluoride (PVDF) HF membranes by evapoporometry (EP) characterization. The membranes were characterized before and after repeated cycles of filtration and backwashing in the absence of any foulants, and for a feed solution of bentonite and humic acid that caused fouling both on and within the membrane pores. Firstly, in the absence of any foulants, backwashing caused the appearance of larger pores, the effect of which was greater for the rubbery PVDF membrane than for the glassy PAN membrane. Secondly, backwashing was more effective in removing the fouling within the larger pores, but could not remove all the deposits within the smaller pores, which provides a mechanistic explanation for the progressive increase in the transmembrane pressure (TMP) with each backwashing cycle. Thirdly, the membranes that did not undergo the 10th backwashing at the end of 10 cycles of filtration and backwashing displayed a marked shift of the PSD towards smaller pores due to the deposition of foulants on and within the largest pores, whereas those that underwent the 10 complete backwashing cycles achieved nearly complete recovery of the larger pores accompanied by an irreversible increase in the diameter of the largest pores. Fourthly, a higher backwashing flux led to similar average pore diameters of the fouled and virgin membranes due to the increased effectiveness in restoring the smallest pores, but the corresponding higher filtration flux negated the benefits due to a greater fouling extent particularly for the larger pores. Finally, in order to achieve the desired permeation and rejection properties, possible enlargement of the pores needs to be taken into consideration when choosing a ultrafiltration (UF) membrane and when specifying the backwashing intensity and protocol.