Electrically conductive spacers for self-cleaning membrane surfaces via periodic electrolysis

Hadeel Subhi Abid, Boor Singh Lalia, Paolo Bertoncello, Raed Hashaikeh, Ben Clifford, David T. Gethin, Nidal Hilal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The use of an electrically conductive membrane has attracted significant interest in water treatment technology due to remarkable performance in fouling mitigation domain. In electrochemical systems, when external potential is applied, water electrolysis occurs and the generated gases efficiently clean the membrane surface. However, fabricating and integrating conductive membranes in current water treatment modules are challenging. The present work applies, for the first time, the electrolysis concept at the spacer component of the module rather than the membrane. Two types of materials were tested, a titanium metal spacer and a polymeric spacer. The polymeric spacer was made conductive via coating with a carbon-based ink comprised of graphene nanoplates (GNPs). A membrane system composed of the carbon coated/titanium metal spacer attached to the surface of a polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) microfiltration membrane and was assembled to the case of membrane module. The conductive spacers worked as an electrode (cathode) in electrochemical set-up. The membrane system was subjected to fouling and then exposed to periodic electrolysis, wherein in-situ cleaning of membrane surface by hydrogen bubbles generation at the spacer is applied.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-23
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 2017


  • Bubble generation
  • Conductive spacer
  • Electrolysis
  • Membrane fouling
  • Self-cleaning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Materials Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering


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