Mechanisms of physically irreversible fouling during surface water microfiltration and mitigation by aluminum electroflotation pretreatment.
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A modified poly(vinylidene fluoride) membrane was used to directly microfilter untreated Lake Houston water, which was then regenerated by surface washing and hydraulic backwashing, a process that was cycled five times. The source water was also electrochemically precoagulated using aluminum and microfiltered, and the membrane was physically regenerated for five cycles. Attenuated total reflectance-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) were used to characterize foulants on membrane surfaces and rigorously deduce their contributions to physically irreversible fouling after cycles 1 and 5. Hydrophobic molecules primarily appeared to initiate fouling during microfiltration of untreated raw water because O-H/N-H bands were attenuated while C-H bands remained relatively unchanged in FTIR-spectra of membrane surfaces after only one cycle. However, O-H/N-H and symmetric and asymmetric C( O)O(-) stretching bands significantly intensified with continued filtration/regeneration of untreated water, showing the importance of hydrophilic molecules and the role of complexation, respectively, to longer term irreversible fouling. Distinct C-H bands were detected in floated flocs after electrolysis, suggesting the sorption and subsequent removal of a substantial portion of the hydrophobic moieties present in Lake Houston water during pretreatment. Consequently, hydrophilic compounds appeared to contribute more to irreversible fouling in pretreated waters throughout the course of filtration as evidenced by significantly more intense O-H bands (compared with C-H bands) on the membrane surface after cycles 1 and 5. Therefore, electroflotation pretreatment reduced accumulation of hydrophobic foulants but simultaneously increased complexation of hydrophilic foulant molecules along with any carried-over aluminum hydroxide precipitates evidenced by increasing Al and O concentrations via XPS and intense C( O)O(-) stretching bands in IR spectra.