Surfactant-Enhanced Ultrafiltration of Heavy Metals from Waste Streams with Pilot-Scale System Academic Article uri icon


  • A semi-automatic pilot-scale membrane system was utilized to perform metal separations from simulated and real industrial wastewaters. Five heavy metals (cadmium, lead, copper, nickel, and zinc) in a simulated wastewater, alone and together, were substantially removed by surfactant-enhanced ultrafiltration using deoxycholic acid, a derivative of cholesterol. The underlying principle is to increase the size of target metal ions by fixing them to larger surfactant macromolecules so they can be retained by a compatible membrane. This research showed that transmembrane pressure had a minimal effect on metal removal whereas the surfactant-to-metal ratio had substantial influence. Selective and total removal of metal ions has been achieved by applying an appropriate level of surfactant-to-metal (S/M) ratio. The optimal S/M ratio for effective metal removal (99.9+ rejection ratio) is around 2.5 for deoxycholic acid. Deoxycholic acid also showed the capacity to selectively remove metal cations (lead, copper, nickel, zinc and iron) from metal anions (chromate), which can be further reused in metal finishing plants.

author list (cited authors)


citation count

  • 18

publication date

  • January 1994