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What are the microscopic events of colloidal membrane fouling?
Abstract and Figures
Due to the complex interplay between surface adsorption and hydrodynamic interactions, representative microscopic mechanisms of colloidal membrane fouling are still not well understood. Numerical simulations overcome experimental limitations such as the temporal and spatial resolution of microscopic events during colloidal membrane fouling: they help to gain deeper insight into fouling processes. This study uses coupled computational fluid dynamics - discrete element methods (CFD-DEM) simulations to examine mechanisms of colloidal fouling in a microfluidic architecture mimicking a porous microfiltration membrane. We pay special attention to how particles can overcome energy barriers leading to adsorption and desorption with each other and with the external and internal membrane surface. Interparticle interaction leads to a transition from the secondary to the primary minimum of the DLVO potential. Adsorbed particles can show re-entrainment or they can glide downstream. Since particles mainly re-suspend as clusters, the inner pore geometry significantly affects the fouling behavior. The findings allow a basic understanding of microscopic fouling events during colloidal filtration. The methodology enables future systematic studies on the interplay of hydrodynamic conditions and surface energy contributions represented by potentials for soft and patchy colloids.
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