Effect of cake layer structure on colloidal fouling in reverse osmosis membranes

Chanhyuk Park, Young Haeng Lee, Sanghyup Lee, Seungkwan Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


A series of reverse osmosis (RO) membrane filtration experiments was performed systematically in order to investigate the effects of various hydrodynamic and physicochemical operational parameters on a cake layer formation in colloidal and particulate suspensions. Bench-scale fouling experiments with a thin-film composite RO membrane were performed at various combinations of trans-membrane pressure (TMP), cross-flow velocity (CFV), particle size, pH, and ionic strength. In this study, silica particles with two different mean diameters of 0.1 and 3.0 μm were used as model colloids. Membrane filtration experiments with colloidal suspensions under various hydrodynamic operating conditions resulted that more significant permeate flux decline was observed as TMP increased and CFV decreased, which was attributed to the higher accumulative mass of particles on the membrane surface. Results of fouling experiments under various physicochemical operating conditions demonstrated that the rate of flux decline decreased significantly with an increase of the ionic strength as well as particle size, while the flux decline rate did not vary when solution pH changed. The experimentally measured cake layer thickness increased with a decrease in particle size and solution ionic strength. Furthermore, the model estimation of cake layer thickness by using a cake filtration theory based on the hydraulic resistance of membrane and cake layer was performed under various ionic strength conditions. The primary model parameters including accumulated mass and specific cake resistance were calculated from the cake layer resistance. This result indicated that the formation of cake layer could be closely related with solution water chemistry. The model estimated cake layer thickness values were in good agreement with the experimentally measured values.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-344
Number of pages10
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Saehan Inc., RO/NF membrane manufacturer in South Korea for providing RO membranes. This material was based upon work supported by Center for Environmental Technology Research at Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) in Seoul, South Korea.


  • Cake filtration theory
  • Cake layer thickness
  • Colloidal fouling
  • Reverse osmosis


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