Influence of pH on the adsorptive fouling of ultrafiltration membranes by fatty acid

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Fatty acids are found in many solutions treated in ultrafiltration plants, for example, in dairy products, fermentation broth, oily waste water and bleach plant effluents from pulp mills. The influence of fatty acids on the fouling of membranes is often ignored because their concentration is rather low. However, during recent years the significant influence of fatty acids on the flux reduction of ultrafiltration membranes has attracted much attention. The pore radius of the membrane, the concentration of fatty acids and the pH of the solution all have a profound influence on the flux reduction when treating solutions containing fatty acids. In the work presented in this paper, the influence of pH on the flux reduction of an ultrafiltration membrane made of polyethersulphone was studied. It was found that there was no flux reduction under alkaline conditions, whereas the flux reduction under acidic conditions was severe. In order to elucidate the adsorption process, the adsorption of octanoic acid on a planar, hydrophobized silica surface was studied by means of in situ null ellipsometry. In the ellipsometry study a sharp increase in the amount adsorbed was observed when the concentration of undissociated acid approached the saturation concentration as the pH was decreased. This explains the observed flux reduction under acidic conditions. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Chemical Engineering
  • Physical Chemistry


  • fouling, adsorption, fatty acid, capillary-induced phase separation, pH, ultrafiltration membrane
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-194
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Publication categoryResearch