Effect of different commercial feed spacers on biofouling of reverse osmosis membrane systems: A numerical study

Szilard Bucs, Andrea I. Radu, Vasile Lavric, Johannes S. Vrouwenvelder, Cristian Picioreanu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


Feed spacers and hydrodynamics have been found relevant for the impact of biofouling on performance in reverse osmosis (RO) and nanofiltration (NF) membrane systems.The objectives of this study on biofouling development were to determine the impact of (i) linear flow velocity and bacterial cell load, (ii) biomass location and (iii) various feed spacer geometries as applied in practice as well as a modified geometry spacer.A three-dimensional mathematical model for biofouling of feed spacer channels including hydrodynamics, solute mass transport and biofilm formation was developed in COMSOL Multiphysics and MATLAB software.Results of this study indicate that the feed channel pressure drop increase caused by biofilm formation can be reduced by using thicker and/or modified feed spacer geometry and/or a lower flow rate in the feed channel. The increase of feed channel pressure drop by biomass accumulation is shown to be strongly influenced by the location of biomass. Results of numerical simulations are in satisfactory agreement with experimental data, indicating that this micro-scale mechanistic model is representative for practice. The developed model can help to understand better the biofouling process of spiral-wound RO and NF membrane systems and to develop strategies to reduce and control biofouling. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-37
Number of pages12
StatePublished - Jun 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • General Materials Science
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Chemistry
  • Mechanical Engineering


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