Small-Angle Neutron Scattering Studies of Mineralization on BSA Coated Citrate Capped Gold Nanoparticles Used as a Model Surface for Membrane Scaling in RO Wastewater Desalination Academic Article uri icon


  • Bovine serum albumin (BSA) coated on citrate capped gold nanoparticles (BSA-GNPs) were exposed to a simulated wastewater effluent (SSE) in order to study the mineralization and thereby mimic scaling at bio-fouled membranes of reverse osmosis (RO) wastewater desalination plants. RO is a leading technology of achieving freshwater quality as it has the capability of removing both dissolved inorganic salts and organic contaminants from tertiary wastewater effluents. The aim was to better understand one of the major problems facing this technology which is fouling of the membranes, mainly biofouling and scaling by calcium phosphate. The experiments were performed using small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) technique. The nanoparticles, GNPs, stabilized by the citrate groups showed 30 Å large particles having a homogeneous distribution of gold and citrate with a gold volume fraction of the order of 1%. On the average two BSA monomers are grafted at 2.4 GNPs. The exposed BSA-GNPs to SSE solution led to immediate mineralization of stable composite particles of the order of 0.2 μm diameter and a mineral volume fraction between 50 and 80%. The volume fraction of the mineral was of the order of 10-5 which is roughly three times larger but the order of magnitude smaller than the maximum possible contents of, respectively, calcium phosphate and calcium carbonate in the SSE solution. Considering the extreme low solubility product of calcium phosphate we suggest total calcium phosphate and partially (5 to 10%) calcium carbonate formation in the presence of BSA-GNPs.

publication date

  • December 2, 2014