Oil-in-water emulsion separation: Fouling of alumina membranes with and without a silicon carbide deposition in constant flux filtration mode

Mingliang Chen*, Sebastiaan G.J. Heijman, Mieke W.J. Luiten-Olieman, Luuk C. Rietveld

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Ceramic membranes have drawn increasing attention in oily wastewater treatment as an alternative to their traditional polymeric counterparts, yet persistent membrane fouling is still one of the largest challenges. Particularly, little is known about ceramic membrane fouling by oil-in-water (O/W) emulsions in constant flux filtration modes. In this study, the effects of emulsion chemistry (surfactant concentration, pH, salinity and Ca2+) and operation parameters (permeate flux and filtration time) were comparatively evaluated for alumina and silicon carbide (SiC) deposited ceramic membranes, with different physicochemical surface properties. The original membranes were made of 100% alumina, while the same membranes were also deposited with a SiC layer to change the surface charge and hydrophilicity. The SiC-deposited membrane showed a lower reversible and irreversible fouling when permeate flux was below 110 L m−2 h−1. In addition, it exhibited a higher permeance recovery after physical and chemical cleaning, as compared to the alumina membranes. Increasing sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) concentration in the feed decreased the fouling of both membranes, but to a higher extent in the alumina membranes. The fouling of both membranes could be reduced with increasing the pH of the emulsion due to the enhanced electrostatic repulsion between oil droplets and membrane surface. Because of the screening of surface charge in a high salinity solution (100 mM NaCl), only a small difference in irreversible fouling was observed for alumina and SiC-deposited membranes under these conditions. The presence of Ca2+ in the emulsion led to high irreversible fouling of both membranes, because of the compression of diffusion double layer and the interactions between Ca2+ and SDS. The low fouling tendency and/or high cleaning efficiency of the SiC-deposited membranes indicated their potential for oily wastewater treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118267
JournalWater research
Early online date8 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022


  • Alumina membrane
  • Ceramic membranes
  • Membrane fouling
  • Oil-in-water emulsion
  • Silicon carbide membrane

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