Humic acid fouling during ultrafiltration

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Recent studies have shown that natural organic matter (e.g., humic and fulvic acids) is a major foulant during ultrafiltration of surface water. The objective of this study was to develop a more complete understanding of the mechanisms governing humic acid fouling, including the effects of humic acid adsorption, concentration polarization, and aggregate deposition on the rate and extent of fouling. Data were obtained with Aldrich and Suwannee River humic acids using ultrafiltration membranes with a broad range of molecular weight cutoffs. Fouled membranes were also examined using streaming potential and contact angle measurements. The extent of flux decline was greatest for the largest molecular weight cutoff membranes due to the greater relative hydraulic resistance of the humic acid deposit formed on the surface of these membranes. This humic acid deposit reduced the apparent zeta potential and increased the membrane contact angle. Simple static adsorption and concentration polarization caused relatively little flux decline. Humic acid aggregates had a significant effect on fouling only for the larger molecular weight cutoff membranes. The rate and extent of humic acid fouling increased at low pH, high ionic strength, and in the presence of calcium due to changes in intermolecular electrostatic interactions. These results provide important insights into the mechanisms of humic acid fouling during ultrafiltration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5043-5050
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 1 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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