PEG-coated reverse osmosis membranes: desalination properties and fouling resistance

Alyson C. Sagle, Elizabeth M. Van Wagner, Hao Ju, Bryan D. McCloskey, Benny D. Freeman, Mukul M. Sharma

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220 Citations (Scopus)


This study focuses on the use of surface-coated reverse osmosis (RO) membranes to reduce membrane fouling in produced water purification. A series of crosslinked PEG-based hydrogels were synthesized using poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate as the crosslinker and poly(ethylene glycol) acrylate, 2-hydroxyethyl acrylate, or acrylic acid as comonomers. The hydrogels were highly water permeable, with water permeabilities ranging from 10.0 to 17.8 (L μm)/(m2 h bar). The hydrogels were applied to a commercial RO membrane (AG brackish water RO membrane from GE Water and Process Technologies). The water flux of coated membranes and a series-resistance model were used to estimate coating thickness; the coatings were approximately 2 μm thick. NaCl rejection for both uncoated and coated membranes was 99.0% or greater, and coating the membranes appeared to increase salt rejection, in contrast to predictions from the series-resistance model. Zeta potential measurements showed a small reduction in the negative charge of coated membranes relative to uncoated RO membranes. Model oil/water emulsions were used to probe membrane fouling. Emulsions were prepared with either a cationic or an anionic surfactant. Surfactant charge played a significant role in membrane fouling even in the absence of oil. A cationic surfactant, dodecyltrimethyl ammonium bromide (DTAB), caused a strong decline in water flux while an anionic surfactant, sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS), resulted in little or no flux decline. In the presence of DTAB, the AG RO membrane water flux immediately dropped to 30% of its initial value, but in the presence of SDS, its water flux gradually decreased to 74% of its initial value after 24 h. DTAB-fouled membranes had lower salt rejection than membranes not exposed to DTAB. In contrast, SDS-fouled membranes had higher salt rejection than membranes not exposed to SDS, with rejection values increasing, in some cases, from 99.0 to 99.8% or higher. In both surfactant tests, coated membranes exhibited less flux decline than uncoated AG RO membranes. Additionally, coated membranes experienced little fouling in the presence of an oil/water emulsion prepared from DTAB and n-decane. For example, after 24 h the water flux of the AG RO membrane fell to 26% of its initial value, while the water flux of a PEGDA-coated AG RO membrane was 73% of its initial value.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-108
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Oil fouling
  • Produced water
  • Reverse osmosis
  • Surface coating
  • Surfactant charge

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