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Anti-biofouling coating for desalination membranes extends lifetimes

By Scott Jenkins |

Buildup of biofouling on membranal surfaces necessitates treatments with corrosive chemicals, such as hydrochloric acid, and even replacement of membrane cartridges, which can be costly in desalination operations. A new coating, developed in the laboratory of Ran Suckevereine at Kinneret Academic College (Gallilee, Israel; www.kinneret.ac.il), is capable of preventing microbial growth on surfaces of commercially available desalination membranes, while maintaining the flowrate and salt rejection observed with the untreated membrane. The use of coatings to prevent biofouling on membranes has been previously tried, but “coating materials can wash into the treated water if they are not strongly attached,” explains Suckevereine. “Free-radical mechanisms can be used to attach active polymers to the membrane, but without special considerations, the free radicals may damage the membrane.” The group’s approach overcomes a number of these issues. The coating is made from polyaniline that is polymerized in the presence of the membrane in such a way that it is chemically bound to the membrane. The Kinneret team used a unique polymerization technique, known as inverse emulsion polymerization, along with sonication, to allow the polymerization…
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