DOI: 10.3390/molecules29061274 ISSN: 1420-3049

Photocatalytic Zinc Oxide Nanoparticles in Antibacterial Ultrafiltration Membranes for Biofouling Control

Ralfs Vevers, Akshay Kulkarni, Alissa Seifert, Kathrin Pöschel, Kornelia Schlenstedt, Jochen Meier-Haack, Linda Mezule
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Drug Discovery
  • Pharmaceutical Science

Global water scarcity is a threat that can be alleviated through membrane filtration technologies. However, the widespread adoption of membranes faces significant challenges, primarily due to membrane biofouling. This is the reason why membrane modifications have been under increasing investigation to address the fouling issues. Antibacterial membranes, designed to combat biofouling by eliminating microorganisms, offer a promising solution. Within this study, flat sheet ultrafiltration (UF) membranes with integrated photocatalytic zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles were developed, characterized, and assessed through filtration and fouling tests. The antibacterial properties of the membranes were conducted in static tests using Gram-negative bacteria—Escherichia coli—and natural tap water biofilm. The results demonstrated a notable enhancement in membrane surface wettability and fouling resistance. Furthermore, the incorporation of ZnO resulted in substantial photocatalytic antibacterial activity, inactivating over 99.9% of cultivable E. coli. The antibacterial activity persisted even in the absence of light. At the same time, the persistence of natural tap water organisms in biofilms of modified membranes necessitates further in-depth research on complex biofilm interactions with such membranes.

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