Modification of a polypropylene feed spacer with metal oxide-thin film by chemical bath deposition for biofouling control in membrane filtration

Chidambaram Thamaraiselvan, Yacov Carmiel, Gary Eliad, Chaim N. Sukenik, Raphael Semiat, Carlos G. Dosoretz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Surface modification of polypropylene feed spacers typical of spiral wound membrane modules was studied by generation of crystalline ZnO nanorods. A seeding layer made by deposition of ZnO nanoparticles (20–40–60 nm diameter) from aqueous dispersions served as nucleation centers for crystallization. A uniform layer of ZnO nanorods was grown on the seeding layer by chemical bath deposition from a zinc acetate solution. Biocidal activity was estimated by antibacterial tests in static liquid culture against Escherichia coli and antibiofouling tests in flow-through/cross-flow mode against a mixture of Pseudomonas fluorescens and Bacillus subtilis. Best biocidal activity was displayed by 20 nm ZnO particles, suggesting a tradeoff between surface coverage, roughness and particle size. Although the seed layer itself displayed acceptable antibacterial activity, a marked improvement was achieved by the nanorods, proving that the morphology of the deposition layer was involved in the antibacterial mechanism. Antibiofouling activity was further improved by superhydrophobic over-coating of the nanorods with octadecyl-phosphonic acid. Modified spacers reduced permeate flux decay by at least 40% compared to controls. The enhanced antibiofouling activity of crystalline ZnO nanorods, compared with amorphous ZnO nanoparticles, can be explained by a combination of the abrasive surface of the crystalline nanorods, hydrophobic repulsion and cumulative oxidation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-519
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.


This work was funded by the KAMIN program, Ministry of Commerce, Israel and supported in part at the Technion by the Technion-Guangdong Fellowship , Israel. The Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute (RBNI) at the Technion, Israel and the Helmsley Charitable Trust, USA are gratefully acknowledged for their support.

FundersFunder number
Ministry of Commerce, Israel
Technion-Israel Institute of Technology


    • Antibacterial feed spacer
    • Chemical bath deposition
    • Crystalline ZnO nanorods
    • Nanoparticles seeding layer
    • Superhydrophobic coating


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