Problem: The performance of a reverse osmosis membrane used by SA Water was affected by an unknown foulant. The client wanted to know whether this contamination was of an organic or inorganic nature.
Solution: The surface composition of the membrane’s active layer was determined by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry in the AMMRF at the University of South Australia. These surface-specific analyses allowed for the parallel detection of organic and inorganic species on the surface of the membrane. The comparison of control and fouled membranes showed substantial changes in the surface characteristics of the membrane, which were indicative of the fouling and allowed the material responsible to be identified.