Prolonging the antibacterial activity of nanosilver-coated membranes through partial sulfidation

Ana C. Barrios, Dianne Carrillo, Tyson R. Waag, Douglas Rice, Yuqiang Bi, Rafiqul Islam, François Perreault

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Biofouling is a major issue in membrane-based water treatment because it shortens membrane life and decreases the permeate flux. Silver, a known biocide, is often used forin situformation of silver nanoparticles (Ag NPs) on membranes for biofouling mitigation. However, Ag NPs dissolve quickly in water, limiting their effectiveness over long periods of time. This study focuses on the modification of silver-functionalized reverse osmosis (RO) membranes with different concentrations of Na2S (10−1, 10−3, and 10−5M) to identify the degree of sulfidation that limits Ag release while preserving the antibacterial effect. Sulfidized membranes decreased Ag release by >85% depending on the extent of sulfidation. Antibacterial activity was assessed usingPseudomonas aeruginosaandEscherichia coli. Results showed the highest inactivation at 73% forP. aeruginosaand 57% forE. colifor 10−5and 10−3M Na2S-treated membranes, respectively, while the more sulfidized membrane treated with 10−1M Na2S treatment had the lowest antibacterial effect. Moreover, when tested in a dynamic cross-flow RO system for 24 h, the flux declined by 24% for the Ag NPs and by 23%, 17%, and 19% as the extent of sulfidation increased. Additionally, the Ag remaining on the membrane was higher for the highest sulfidized membrane with 519 ng cm−2. Therefore, retention of the silver coating over time appears to be more important for biofilm control in RO systems than high antibacterial activity. Both 10−5M and 10−3M Na2S-treated membranes had the best balance between reduced Ag release rate and effective antibacterial and anti-biofouling performance, respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2607-2617
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science: Nano
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)
  • General Environmental Science


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