In this work, colloidal fouling by silica particles of different sizes on micro-patterned pristine and poly-(N
-isopropylacylamide)-coated polyamide (PA) thin-film composite (TFC) membranes was studied. The competing impacts of surface micro-patterning vs. surface chemical modification on enhancing antifouling propensity in unstirred dead-end filtration conditions were systematically explored. Spatially selective deposition of silica microparticles (500 nm), driven by unequal flow distribution, was observed on micro-patterned membranes such that silica particles accumulated preferentially within the surface pattern’s valleys, while keeping apexes regions not fouled. This interesting phenomenon may explain the substantially enhanced antifouling propensity of micro-patterned PA TFC membranes. A detailed mechanism for spatially selective deposition of silica microparticles is proposed. Furthermore, micro-imprinted surface patterns were revealed to influence deposition behavior/packing of silica nanoparticles (50 nm) resulting in very limited flux decline that was, almost, recovered under influence of triggering stirring stimulus during a continued silica filtration experiment. The current findings provide more insights into the potency of surface micro-patterning consolidated with hydrogel coating toward new fouling-resistant PA TFC membranes.
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