Formation of polysulfone colloids for adsorption of natural organic foulants

Mark M. Clark*, Won Young Ahn, Xiang Li, Neal Sternisha, Robert L. Riley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


An ever-present problem in the use of commercial membranes for treatment of drinking water is fouling of the membranes by natural organic matter (NOM). This work describes a new approach to elimination or minimization of membrane fouling by NOM. When a 2% solution of polysulfone in NMP and propionic acid is slowly injected into water, ∼50 nm polysulfone particles are spontaneously formed, and these hydrophobic particles quickly coagulate into ∼12-μm diameter aggregates; the formed material has a surface area of ∼100 m 2 /g and an equivalent "pore" size of 25 nm. When 50 mg/L of the new material is equilibrated with a local drinking water supply, virtually all adsorptive fouling of a 20-kDa molecular weight cutoff ultrafiltration membrane is eliminated. Interestingly, although only a very small percentage of the NOM is removed by adsorption on the polysulfone aggregates, it appears that exactly this small NOM component is responsible for nearly all of the membrane fouling. This paper describes the fabrication and characterization of the new polysulfone adsorbent and offers an hypothesis for the formation of the product via spontaneous emulsification and spinodal decomposition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7207-7213
Number of pages7
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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