Sweep flocculation and adsorption of viruses on aluminum flocs during electrochemical treatment prior to surface water microfiltration. Academic Article uri icon


  • Bench-scale experiments were performed to evaluate virus control by an integrated electrochemical-microfiltration (MF) process from turbid (15 NTU) surface water containing moderate amounts of dissolved organic carbon (DOC, 5 mg C/L) and calcium hardness (50 mg/L as CaCO3). Higher reductions in MS2 bacteriophage concentrations were obtained by aluminum electrocoagulation and electroflotation compared with conventional aluminum sulfate coagulation. This was attributed to electrophoretic migration of viruses, which increased their concentrations in the microenvironment of the sacrificial anode where coagulant precursors are dissolved leading to better destabilization during electrolysis. In all cases, viruses were not inactivated implying measured reductions were solely due to their removal. Sweep flocculation was the primary virus destabilization mechanism. Direct evidence for virus enmeshment in flocs was provided by two independent methods: quantitative elution using beef extract at elevated pH and quantitating fluorescence from labeled viruses. Atomic force microscopy studies revealed a monotonically increasing adhesion force between viruses immobilized on AFM tips and floc surfaces with electrocoagulant dosage, which suggests secondary contributions to virus uptake on flocs from adsorption. Virus sorption mechanisms include charge neutralization and hydrophobic interactions with natural organic matter removed during coagulation. This also provided the basis for interpreting additional removal of viruses by the thick cake formed on the surface of the microfilter following electrocoagulation. Enhancements in virus removal as progressively more aluminum was electrolyzed therefore embodies contributions from (i) better encapsulation onto greater amounts of fresh Al(OH)3 precipitates, (ii) increased adsorption capacity associated with higher available coagulant surface area, (iii) greater virus-floc binding affinity due to effective charge neutralization and hydrophobic interactions, and/or (iv) additional removal by a dynamic membrane if a thick cake layer of flocs is deposited.

published proceedings

  • Environ Sci Technol

author list (cited authors)

  • Tanneru, C. T., Rimer, J. D., & Chellam, S.

citation count

  • 42

complete list of authors

  • Tanneru, Charan Tej||Rimer, Jeffrey D||Chellam, Shankararaman

publication date

  • May 2013