Melbourne researchers’ anti fouling membrane claim

Researchers from the Melbourne School of Engineering at the University of Melbourne have developed what they claim to be an anti fouling microfiltration system that outstrips existing technology on energy efficiency with negligible compromise on performance.

Working with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation the Melbourne researchers have produced a microfiltration pretreatment membrane that makes it possible to deploy chlorine disinfection to decrease membrane fouling by bacteria and other microbes (biofouling) without incurring membrane damage.

According to Professor Sandra Kentish, of Melbourne University’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, it has not, to date, been viable to add chlorinating agents to water to prevent biological growth ahead of desalination. “Such biofouling has been a major issue to date, but the new membranes have the potential to lead to a more economic desalination operation,” Kentish said.

She said her team’s chlorine-resistant membrane design performs “at a comparable level to existing commercial membranes used in these applications.” She added: “But importantly, they show greater resistance to attack by chlorine-containing chemicals.”

The layered assembly of the new membrane materials can reduce costs by cutting out additional processing steps according to Kentish. “They can also prevent the decrease in water flow that is currently observed with time due to biological fouling,” she said.