Application of nanoscale probes for the evaluation of the integrity of ultrafiltration membranes

Vitaly Gitis*, Roy C. Haught, Robert M. Clark, Jenny Gun, Ovadia Lev

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


The consequences of chemical cleaning of ultrafiltration membranes should not be interpreted solely in terms of flux recovery. It is important to evaluate the nature of the interactions between the cleaning agent and the membrane surface and to determine whether the introduction of the agent acts solely to improve the flux recovery or whether it also alters the membrane skin layer. Despite the important consequences of this information, only very limited data have been reported to date about the permeability-treatment relationships. Studies on membranes have mainly considered changes in streaming potential, FTIR spectra and hydrophobicity of the membrane surface. The present report uses an additional tool, probes of gold nanoparticles or dye-labeled MS2 bacteriophages, to trace gradual disintegration of the membrane skin layer during chemical cleaning. The new type of probe allowed us to follow two-stage deformation kinetics of the membranes during oxidative cleaning. The first stage involved the formation of holes with an average diameter of 20-30 nm, and the second stage, the rapid growth of the holes, leading to disintegration of the skin layer. The two-phase transition was followed using bubble-point measurements, ATR-FTIR spectroscopy, and SEM micrography. A second aim of the current article is to demonstrate the usefulness of a newly introduced tool - monodispersed nanoprobes - to trace membrane damage.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)185-192
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1 May 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Water Supply and Water Resources Division through contract no. 030–7506 with The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The authors wish to thank Mrs. Arkhangelsky and Mr. Kuzmenko for their help in bubble point measurements. Help of Mr. Krayz in 3-D drawings is acknowledged with gratitude. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S.EPA.


  • Chemical cleaning
  • Drinking water
  • Flux
  • Nanoparticles
  • Ultrafiltration membranes


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