Biofouling of reverse osmosis membranes: effects of cleaning on biofilm microbial communities, membrane performance, and adherence of extracellular polymeric substances Academic Article uri icon


  • AbstractLaboratory-scale reverse osmosis (RO) flat-sheet systems were used with two parallel flow cells, one treated with cleaning agents and a control (ie undisturbed). The cleaning efforts increased the affinity of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) to the RO membrane and altered the biofilm surface structure. Analysis of the membrane biofilm community composition revealed the dominance of Proteobacteria. However, within the phylum Proteobacteria, γ-Proteobacteria dominated the cleaned membrane biofilm, while β-Proteobacteria dominated the control biofilm. The composition of the fungal phyla was also altered by cleaning, with enhancement of Ascomycota and suppression of Basidiomycota. The results suggest that repeated cleaning cycles select for microbial groups that strongly attach to the RO membrane surface by producing rigid and adhesive EPS that hampers membrane performance.

publication date

  • January 1, 2017