Biofouling in Membrane Bioreactors: Mechanism, Interactions and Possible Mitigation Using Biosurfactants

Deepti Singh, Surekha K. Satpute, Poonam Ranga, Baljeet Singh Saharan, Neha Mani Tripathi, Gajender Kumar Aseri, Deepansh Sharma, Sanket Joshi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Biofouling roots damage to membrane bioreactors (MBRs), such as physical, functional and organisational changes and even therefore clogging of the membrane pores and successive microbial degradation. Further, it blocks the pores, results into a biomass cake and in due course reduces the membrane flux and leads to an increase in the operational costs. MBR fouling contributed to the rise in transmembrane pressure (TMP) and decrease in permeate flux (in case of constant pressure operation mode). Chemical surfactants adopted for the cleaning of membrane surfaces have certain disadvantages such as toxicity manifestations, damage to the membranes and high CMC concentrations. Biosurfactant surfactants have attained increasing interest due to their low toxicity, biodegradability, stability to extreme environmental conditions such as temperatures, pH and tolerance to salinity. The biosurfactants trapped the foulants via micelle formation, which distresses hydrophobic interactions amongst bacteria and the surface. Rhamnolipids as an anionic biosurfactant pose a significant interfacial potential and have affinity to bind organic matter. The present review discusses the problem of biofouling in MBRs, type and interactions of foulants involved and also highlights the mechanisms of biosurfactant cleaning, effect of different parameters, effect of concentration, TMP, flux recovery, permeability, mitigation practices and challenges.

Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied Biochemistry and Biotechnology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Flux rate
  • Grafting
  • Membrane bioreactors
  • Permeability
  • Rhamnolipids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Molecular Biology

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