Membrane fouling by cell-protein mixtures: in situ characterisation using multi-photon microscopy.
Hughes DJ., Cui Z., Field RW., Tirlapur UK.
Fouling of the membrane by cell and protein mixtures can result in severe flux declines, leading to the eventual need to clean or replace the membrane. In this study multi-photon microscopy, a fluorescence-based technique is used to 3-D image in situ the fouling of microfiltration membranes by suspensions containing combinations of washed yeast, bovine serum albumin (BSA) and ovalbumin. Appropriate fluorescent labelling allows the three foulant species to be clearly identified. Images correlate well with filtration data and clearly show the cake of yeast cells capturing protein aggregates. The proteins exhibited very different filtration behaviour. When filtering washed yeast together with ovalbumin and/or a 50:50 mixture by mass of BSA and ovalbumin, the ovalbumin fouling dominates the system. Capture of aggregates by the cake did not reduce fouling of the membrane by the protein and increased the resistance of the cake. For mixtures of BSA and washed yeast, the presence of a cake of yeast cells did reduce fouling of the membrane by the protein, however, the extra resistance due to the cake resulted in a flux lower than that when filtering BSA alone.