Application of atomic force microscopy for characterizing membrane biofouling in the micrometer and nanometer scales

Amr M. Zaky, Isabel C. Escobar, Cyndee L. Gruden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Despite the availability of new detection and monitoring methods, a complete understanding of biofouling is still lacking. Therefore, this study employed a combination of biofilm characterization protocols macro, micro, and nano (meter) scales to provide insight into the early stages of biofilm formation using cellulose acetate ultrafiltration membranes. Membranes were fouled during 53 hours of crossflow filtration using two distinct feed waters. Biofilm characterization techniques included flux decline, image analysis, and atomic force microscopy (AFM). The flux decline and image analysis (bulk biofilm surface area coverage) data could not be correlated with feed water characteristics. Using AFM, it was possible to provide feature height analyses on the nano- scale to verify distinct biofilm distribution and formation as function of feed water characteristics. These findings suggest that AFM-based biofilm characterization may provide the details needed to distinguish variations in cell deposition on a single membrane surface and/or between varied feed waters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-457
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Progress and Sustainable Energy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • AFM
  • biofouling
  • characterization
  • morphology
  • ultrafiltration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • General Environmental Science
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Chemistry


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