Seeing is believing: Insights from synchrotron infrared mapping for membrane fouling in osmotic membrane bioreactors

Wenhai Luo, Benedicta Arhatari, Stephen R. Gray, Ming Xie

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27 Citations (SciVal)


We employed synchrotron infrared (IR) mapping to resolve forward osmosis (FO) membrane fouling in osmotic membrane bioreactor (OMBR). Synchrotron IR mapping offers a unique perspective to elucidate the fouling mechanisms and associated consequences in OMBR operation. We demonstrated the spatial distribution and relative intensity of carbohydrate and protein longitudinally along of the fouled FO membrane at the conclusion of OMBR operation. Both transmission and attenuated total reflection (ATR) modes were used to map the cross-section and surface of the fouled FO membrane. Micro X-ray computed tomography revealed patchy, “sand-dune” features on the membrane surface at the conclusion of OMBR operation. Synchrotron IR-ATR mapping demonstrated that the development of membrane fouling layer in OMBR operation was initiated by polysaccharide-like carbohydrate, followed by layering with protein-like substance, resulting in a characteristic “sand-dune” three dimensional feature. Synchrotron FTIR mapping shed light on foulant occurrence and accumulation in the draw solution. Strong penetration of protein-like substance into membrane matrix was visualised, resulting the detection of protein adsorption in the region of membrane supporting layer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-361
Number of pages7
JournalWater Research
Early online date8 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2018


  • Foulant penetration
  • Fouling distribution
  • Membrane fouling
  • Micro X-ray computed tomography
  • Osmotic membrane bioreactor
  • Synchrotron infrared mapping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modelling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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