Impact of higher alginate expression on deposition of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in radial stagnation point flow and reverse osmosis systems Academic Article uri icon


  • Extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) have major impact on biofouling of reverse osmosis (RO) membranes. On one hand, EPS can reduce membrane permeability and on the other, EPS production by the primary colonizers may influence their deposition and attachment rate and subsequently affect the biofouling propensity of the membrane. The role of bacterial exopolysaccharides in bacterial deposition followed by the biofouling potential of an RO membrane was evaluated using an alginate overproducing (mucoid) Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The mucoid P. aeruginosa PAOmucA22 was compared with its isogenic nonmucoid prototypic parent PAO1 microscopically in a radial stagnation point flow (RSPF) system for their bacterial deposition characteristics. Then, biofouling potential of PAO1 and PAOmucA22 was determined in a crossflow rectangular plate-and-frame membrane cell, in which the strains were cultivated on a thin-film composite, polyamide, flat RO membrane coupon (LFC-1) under laminar flow conditions. In the RSPF system, the observed deposition rate of the mucoid strain was between 5- and 10-fold lower than of the wild type using either synthetic wastewater medium (with ionic strength of 14.7 mM and pH 7.4) or 15 mM KCl solution (pH of 6.2). The slower deposition rate of the mucoid strain is explained by 5- to 25-fold increased hydrophilicity of the mucoid strain as compared to the isogenic wild type, PAO1. Corroborating with these results, a significant delay in the onset of biofouling of the RO membrane was observed when the mucoid strain was used as the membrane colonizer, in which the observed time for the induced permeate flux decline was delayed (ca. 2-fold). In conclusion, the lower initial cell attachment of the mucoid strain decelerated biofouling of the RO membrane. Bacterial deposition and attachment is a critical step in biofilm formation and governed by intimate interactions between outer membrane proteins of the bacteria and the surface. Shielding these interactions by a hydrated and hydrophilic alginate capsule is shown to dramatically lessen the biofouling potential of the membrane colonizers.

publication date

  • January 1, 2009