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Plasma deposition of silver nanoparticles on ultrafiltration membranes

Antibacterial and anti-biofouling properties
: Cruz, Mercedes Cecilia; Ruano, Gustavo; Wolf, Marcus; Hecker, Dominik; Vidaurre, Elza Castro; Schmittgens, Ralph; Rajal, Verónica Beatriz


Transactions of the Institution of Chemical Engineers. A, Chemical engineering research & design : CERD 94 (2015), pp.524-537
ISSN: 0263-8762
ISSN: 1744-3563
Journal Article
Fraunhofer FEP ()
ultrafiltration; biofouling; silver nanoparticles; plasma; gas flow sputtering; XPS

A novel and versatile plasma reactor was used to modify polyethersulphone commercial membranes. The equipment was applied to: (i) functionalize the membranes with low-temperature plasmas, (ii) deposit a film of poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) by Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD) and, (iii) deposit silver nanoparticles (SNP) by gas flow sputtering. Each modification process was performed in the same reactor consecutively, without exposure of the membranes to atmospheric air. Scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy were used to characterize the particles and modified membranes. SNP are evenly distributed on the membrane surface. Particle fixation and transport inside membranes were assessed before- and after-washing assays by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy depth profiling analysis. PMMA addition improved SNP fixation. Plasma-treated membranes showed higher hydrophilicity. Anti-biofouling activity was successfully achieved against Gram-positive (Enterococcus faecalis) and -negative (Salmonella) Typhimurium bacteria. Therefore, disinfection by ultrafiltration showed substantial resistance to biofouling. The post-synthesis functionalization process developed provides a more efficient fabrication route for anti-biofouling and anti-bacterial membranes used in the water treatment field. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of a gas phase condensation process combined with a PECVD procedure in order to deposit SNP on commercial membranes to inhibit biofouling formation.