Biofouling is the biggest challenge in membrane operations and maintenance. It accounts for more than 45% of all membrane fouling. Membranes that foul easily experience a decrease in flux, which increases energy use and thus operational costs. Restoring flux can also be challenging, as membrane materials more prone to biofouling tend to be made from low-cost materials, which are also less tolerant of cleaning chemicals (acidic/basic). Oxidizing chemistries like sodium hypochlorite and hydrogen peroxide used to clean membranes can damage the polymer over time, thus reducing its life expectancy. The need to lower operational costs by reducing fouling has led to research on antifouling or fouling-resistant membranes.
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