Effect of Operating Conditions on the Efficiency of Microbial Contaminant Removal by Low-Pressure Membranes

EPA Grant Number: U915940
Title: Effect of Operating Conditions on the Efficiency of Microbial Contaminant Removal by Low-Pressure Membranes
Investigators: Curl, Jason M.
Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: January 1, 2001 through January 1, 2003
Project Amount: $62,491
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2001) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Engineering and Environmental Chemistry , Fellowship - Civil/Environmental Engineering


The objective of this research project is to investigate the roles that relevant operating conditions and water quality parameters have on the removal efficiency of microbial contaminants by ultrafiltration (UF) membranes. Several studies reported in recent years have focused in optimizing the operation of microfiltration (MF) and UF membrane systems from the perspective of minimizing membrane fouling and ultimately lowering the cost of operation for drinking water utilities. Some studies have reported the results from microbial challenge experiments, but additional work is required to determine if the operating conditions that minimize fouling in membrane systems also result in maximum removal of microbial contaminants.


As membrane processes become more prominent in the drinking water treatment industry, many studies have been conducted to characterize their capabilities and limitations. In particular, research has been conducted in recent years to optimize MF and UF operation (Howe, 2001; Sethi, et al., 2001). Operation optimization can help provide drinking water at a lower cost by increasing production and/or decreasing fouling of the membrane modules. This is of great interest to treatment facilities so they can provide low-cost water to customers.

A primary goal for using low-pressure membranes, however, is to provide a barrier against microbial contaminants such as viruses, bacteria, and protozoan (oo)cysts. Further information is needed to determine how operating conditions that minimize fouling or maximize flux affect the removal of microbial contaminants. In particular, there is a need for clarifying the roles that operating conditions such as permeate flux, crossflow velocity, and coagulant dose have on the removal efficiency of MF and UF membranes. Also, water quality parameters such as pH, suspended solids concentration, and natural organic matter content should be investigated to determine their effects on microbial contaminant removal efficiency.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, microfiltration, ultrafiltration, membrane systems, MF, UF, microbial contaminant removal, drinking water.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2001
  • Final