Fouling characteristics of various thin film composite polyamide reverse osmosis (RO) and nanofiltration (NF) membranes were systematically investigated using a high organic surficial groundwater obtained from the City of Plantation, Florida. Prior to bench-scale fouling experiments, surface properties of the selected RO and NF membranes were carefully analysed in order to correlate the rate and extent of fouling to membrane surface characteristics, such as roughness, charge and hydrophobicity. More specifically, the surface roughness was characterized by atomic force microscopy, while the surface charge and hydrophobicity of the membranes were evaluated through zeta potential and contact angle measurements, respectively. The results indicated that membrane fouling became more severe with increasing surface roughness, as measured by the surface area difference, which accounts for both magnitude and frequency of surface peaks. Surface roughness was correlated to flux decline; however, surface charge was not. The limited range of hydrophobicity of the flat sheet studies prohibited conclusions regarding the correlation of flux decline and hydrophobicity.

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