Improvement of virus removal using ultrafiltration membranes modified with grafted zwitterionic polymer hydrogels

Ruiqing Lu, Chang Zhang, Maria Piatkovsky, Mathias Ulbricht, Moshe Herzberg, Thanh H. Nguyen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Potable water reuse has been adopted by cities suffering water scarcity in recent years. The microbial safety in water reuse, especially with respect to pathogenic viruses, is still a concern for water consumers. Membrane filtration can achieve sufficient removal of pathogenic viruses without disinfection byproducts, but the required energy is intensive. In this study, we graft-polymerized zwitterionic SPP ([3-(methacryloylamino) propyl] dimethyl (3-sulfopropyl) ammonium hydroxide) on a 150 kDa ultrafiltration polyethersulfone membrane to achieve a significantly higher virus removal. The redox-initiated graft-polymerization was performed in an aqueous solution during filtration of the monomer and initiators, allowing for functionalizing the membrane pores with hydrophilic polySPP. Bacteriophage MS2 and human adenovirus type 2 (HAdV-2) were used as surrogates for pathogenic human norovirus and human adenovirus. The grafting resulted in ∼18% loss of the membrane permeability but an increase of 4 log10 in HAdV-2 removal and 3 log10 in MS2 removal. The pristine and the grafted membranes were both conditioned with soluble microbial products (SMP) extracted from a full-scale membrane bioreactor (MBR) in order to test the virus removal after fouling the membranes. After fouling, the HAdV-2 removal by the grafted membrane was 1 log10 higher than that of the pristine membrane. For MS2, the grafted membrane after fouling with SMP achieved an additional 5 log10 removal compared to the unmodified membrane. The simple graft-polymerization functionalization of commercialized membrane achieving enhanced virus removal efficiency highlights the promise of membrane filtration for pathogen control in potable water reuse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-94
Number of pages9
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Graft-polymerization
  • Repulsion force
  • Virus removal
  • Zwitterionic


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