Biofouling removal in spiral-wound nanofiltration elements using two-phase flow cleaning

Y. Wibisono, K.E. El Obied, E.R. Cornelissen, A.J.B. Kemperman*, K. Nijmeijer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)
41 Downloads (Pure)


Biofouling has detrimental effects on the feed channel pressure drop and the permeate flux in high-pressure membrane processes such as NF and RO. Two-phase flow cleaning is a chemical-free technique that is able to remove such biofilms. This paper presents a study into the effects of the gas/liquid ratio, feed spacer geometry, applied pressure and liquid velocity on the efficiency of two-phase flow cleaning in spiral-wound nanofiltration elements. A high-speed camera, optical coherence tomography and scanning electron microscopy were used to study biofouling and its removal. Our results show that two conditions must be met to ensure that a sufficiently high shear force is applied to biofilms on membrane and spacer surfaces. A good bubble distribution in the channel is the first requirement. While it is mainly the structure of the feed spacer that controls bubble flow and bubble size, a minimum gas/liquid ratio of 0.5 is necessary to achieve a good bubble distribution. The second condition is the use of a sufficiently high liquid velocity during cleaning. The bubble velocity was found to be 3.5-5.5 times as high as the used liquid velocity, and responsible for a marked improvement in the flux recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-146
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of membrane science
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015


  • Biofouling
  • Nanofiltration
  • Optical coherence tomography
  • Spiral-wound membrane
  • Two-phase flow cleaning
  • 2023 OA procedure


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