Membrane fouling is the bottleneck limiting the wide application of membrane processes. Herein, we adopted an electroactive polyether sulfone (PES) membrane capable of mitigating fouling by various negatively charged foulants. To evaluate anti-fouling performance and the underlying mechanism of this electroactive PES membrane, three types of model foulants were selected rationally (e.g., bovine serum albumin (BSA) and sodium alginate (SA) as non-migratory foulants, yeast as a proliferative foulant and emulsified oil as a spreadable foulant). Water flux and total organic carbon (TOC) removal efficiency in the filtering process of various foulants were tested under an electric field. Results suggest that under electrochemical assistance, the electroactive PES membrane has an enhanced anti-fouling efficacy. Furthermore, a low electrical field was also effective in mitigating the membrane fouling caused by a mixture of various foulants (containing BSA, SA, yeast and emulsified oil). This result can be attributed to the presence of electrostatic repulsion, which keeps foulants away from the membrane surface. Thereby it hinders the formation of a cake layer and mitigates membrane pore blocking. This work implies that an electrochemical control might provide a promising way to mitigate membrane fouling.
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