Nanoporous carbon membranes could be very attractive for applications of ultrafiltration in the biotechnology industry because of their greater mechanical strength and longer membrane life. The objective of this study was to obtain quantitative data on the performance characteristics of nanoporous carbon membranes formed within a stainless steel support that was first modified by deposition of silica particles within the macroporous support. The nanoporous carbon membrane effectively removed small solutes from a protein solution using diafiltration, with performance comparable to that of commercial polymeric membranes. Protein fouling was evident, although the nanoporous carbon membranes were easily regenerated; cleaning with 0.5 N NaOH at 50°C completely restored the water permeability for multiple cycles. The nanoporous carbon membranes were also compatible with steam sterilization. Significant increases in process flux could be obtained using periodic back-pulsing, with no evidence of any structural alterations in the membrane. These results clearly demonstrate the potential benefits and opportunities for using nanoporous carbon membranes for protein ultrafiltration.
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