Developing an antibacterial super-hydrophilic barrier between bacteria and membranes to mitigate the severe impacts of biofouling

<p>Biofouling produces concentrated microbial populations with highly resistive biofilms and is considered to be a serious obstacle for a wide range of membrane technology applications. An antibacterial super-hydrophilic barrier could help to reduce biofouling by preventing direct contact between membranes and bacteria. In this study, an antibacterial super-hydrophilic barrier consisting of a layer of TiO<sub>2</sub> nanoparticles (NPs) was developed on polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF)-based membrane <i>via</i> a facile technique. The results demonstrated that the presence of TiO<sub>2</sub> NPs eliminated the first step of biofouling, ie bacterial adhesion to the membrane. In addition, after bacterial deposition onto the membrane during ultrafiltration (UF), the TiO<sub>2</sub> NPs significantly retarded bacterial growth and reproduction (the second step of biofouling). During UF, the membrane flux decreased due to bacterial deposition, but 85% of the flux was recovered through physical cleaning using water. This study sheds light on the potential advantages of antibacterial super-hydrophilic membranes for biofouling mitigation.</p>