L. Fortunato, S. Jeong, T.O. Leiknes
Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 15, (2017)
Biofouling on a membrane leads to significant performance decrease in filtration processes. In this study, an optical coherence tomography (OCT) was used to perform a time-resolved analysis of dynamic biofouling development on a submerged membrane under continuous operation. A real-time change in the biofouling morphology was calculated through the image analysis of OCT scans. Three videos were generated through the acquisition of serial static images. This is the first study that displays the dynamic biofouling formation process as a video. The acquisition of OCT cross-sectional scans of the biofouling allowed to evaluate the time-lapsed evolution for three different time periods (early stage, double layers and long-term). Firstly, at the early filtration stage, membrane coverage and average biofouling layer thickness were found to be linearly correlated with the permeate flux pattern. Secondly, after 3 d of operation, an anomalous morphology was observed, constituted by a double-layered biofouling structure: denser on the bottom and looser on the top. In a long-term operation, the biofouling structure underwent a dynamic evolution over time, resulting in a multi-layered structure. The biofouling formation information was closely associated with filtration performance (i.e. flux) indicating the suitability of OCT as real-time and in-situ biofouling monitoring technique.