Microbial Attachment Inhibition through Low-Voltage Electrochemical Reactions on Electrically Conducting Membranes

Avner Ronen, Wenyan Duan, Ian Wheeldon, Sharon Walker, David Jassby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Bacterial biofilm formation on membrane surfaces remains a serious challenge in water treatment systems. The impact of low voltages on microbial attachment to electrically conducting ultrafiltration membranes was investigated using a direct observation cross-flow membrane system mounted on a fluorescence microscope. Escherichia coli and microparticle deposition and detachment rates were measured as a function of the applied electrical potential to the membrane surface. Selecting bacteria and particles with low surface charge minimized electrostatic interactions between the bacteria and charged membrane surface. Application of an electrical potential had a significant impact on the detachment of live bacteria in comparison to dead bacteria and particles. Image analysis indicated that when a potential of 1.5 V was applied to the membrane/counter electrode pair, the percent of dead bacteria was 32 ± 2.1 and 67 ± 3.6% when the membrane was used as a cathode or anode, respectively, while at a potential of 1 V, 92 ± 2.4% were alive. The application of low electrical potentials resulted in the production of low (μM) concentrations of hydrogen peroxide (HP) through the electroreduction of oxygen. The electrochemically produced HP reduced microbial cell viability and increased cellular permeability. Exposure to low concentrations of electrochemically produced HP on the membrane surface prevents bacterial attachment, thus ensuring biofilm-free conditions during membrane filtration operations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12741-12750
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number21
StatePublished - 3 Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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