Characterization of dissolved organic matters responsible for ultrafiltration membrane fouling in algal harvesting

Wei Zhang, Wen Zhang, Xuezhi Zhang, Pasquale Amendola, Qiang Hu, Yongsheng Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

41 Scopus citations


A major challenge of membrane ultrafiltration technology for large-scale microalgal harvesting and recycling of used culture media is membrane fouling, and the chemical nature and molecular properties of fouling are not well understood. To determine possible membrane fouling mechanism, a bench-scale hollow fiber polyvinylchloride (PVC) ultrafiltration membrane unit was employed to harvest the unicellular green alga Chlorella zofingiensis grown in a flat plate photobioreactor. It revealed that Chlorella, bacteria, and dissolved organic matter (DOM) each clogged the membrane, and yet the most severe membrane fouling was caused by DOM, which was also found to be most difficult to remove from the membrane by periodical backwashing. DOM was further fractionated by high performance size exclusion chromatography (HPSEC) into three fractions, i.e., hydrophilic acid fraction (HPI-A), hydrophilic non-acid fraction (HPI-NA) and hydrophobic acid fraction (HPO-A), of which HPI-NA, particularly in a molecular weight range of 7-11. kDa, was the major foulants. The results also showed that a carbohydrate fraction of DOM caused greater membrane fouling than a protein fraction did.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-229
Number of pages7
JournalAlgal Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2013



  • Biofuel
  • Chlorella zofingiensis
  • Dissolved organic matter
  • Membrane fouling
  • Microalgal harvesting
  • Ultrafiltration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science

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