Protein fouling in carbon nanotubes enhanced ultrafiltration membrane: Fouling mechanism as a function of pH and ionic strength

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Journal Article
Separation and Purification Technology, 2017, 176 pp. 323 - 334
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© 2016 Elsevier B.V. The protein fouling behavior was investigated in the filtration of the multiwall carbon nanotube (MWCNT) composite membrane and commercial polyethersulfone ultrafiltration (PES-UF) membrane. The effect of solution chemistry such as pH and ionic strength on the protein fouling mechanism was systematically examined using filtration model such as complete pore blocking, intermediate pore blocking and cake layer formation. The results showed that the initial permeate flux pattern and fouling behavior of the MWCNT composite membrane were significantly influenced by pH and ionic strength while the effect of PES-UF membrane on flux was minimal. In a lysozyme (Lys) filtration, the severe pore blocking in the MWCNT membrane was made by the combined effect of intra-foulant interaction (Lys-Lys) and electrostatic repulsion between the membrane surface and the foulant at pH 7, and increasing ionic strength where the foulant-foulant interaction and membrane-fouling interaction were weak. In a bovine serum albumin (BSA) filtration, severe pore blocking was reduced by less deposition via the electrostatic interaction between the membrane and foulant at pH 4.7 and 10.4 and increasing ionic strength, at which the interaction between the membrane and BSA became weak. For binary mixture filtration, the protein fouling mechanism was more dominantly affected by foulant-foulant interaction (Lys-BSA, Lys-Lys, and BSA-BSA) at pH 7.0 and increase in ionic strength. This research demonstrates that MWCNT membrane fouling can be alleviated by changing pH condition and ionic strength based on the foulant-foulant interaction and the electrostatic interaction between the membrane and foulant.
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