Bacterial biofilm formation on ion exchange membranes

Moshe Herzberg, Soumya Pandit, Meagan S. Mauter, Yoram Oren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Ion exchange membranes (IEMs) often suffer from biofouling, which reduces ion exchange rates and increases energy consumption in water treatment processes, such as electrodialysis, reverse electrodialysis, membrane capacitive deionization, and Donnan dialysis, and in energy devices, such as microbial fuel cells. In the present study, microbial biofilm formation was studied on anion exchange membranes (AEMs) and a cation exchange membranes (CEMs) of the homogeneous and heterogeneous types. Biofilm formation of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 on the IEMs was higher on the CEMs than on the AEMs, although more dead cells were found on the AEMs, likely due to the presence of quaternary ammonium moieties on the AEM surface, which are bactericidal. An XTT assay and NPN uptake tests confirmed the antimicrobial properties of the AEM surface. The results also suggested that the surface roughness of the membranes affected interactions between bacteria and the IEMs, being more pronounced on the heterogeneous IEMs than on the homogeneous IEMs. Counter-ion transport properties were studied under the Donnan exchange regime for both pristine and biofouled IEMs. The reduction of counter-ion transport due to biofouling was more pronounced for heterogeneous CEMs and AEMs than for their homogeneous counterparts, while it was more noticeable for the AEMs than for the CEMs. The latter result is explained based on the preferential adsorption of the negatively charged EPS components to the positively charged AEMs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117564
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
StatePublished - 15 Feb 2020


  • Biofilm
  • Donnan exchange
  • Intracellular reactive oxygen species
  • Ion exchange membranes
  • Specific conductivity
  • XTT assay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Filtration and Separation


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