The formation of biofilms, heterogeneous assemblages of microorganisms enclosed in a matrix of extracellular polymeric substances, is a major challenge is any engineered system exposed to aqueous environments. Managing biofilm formation is a very costly problem: in the desalination industry, biofouling is estimated at a global cost of 15 billion USD yearly in chemicals, energy, and downtime costs. Biofilms can also harbor pathogens, which represent a health risk if water supplies are not properly managed. Our research on biofouling aims to understand the relationships between surface properties and bacterial colonization in order to develop new antimicrobial or antifouling surface coatings for biofouling control. We are also developing new self-cleaning surfaces that can provide an active method of biofilm control without the use of chemicals. We apply these new biofouling control technologies to water treatment systems used in water reuse, desalination, or for space exploration.

PhD student Marion Bellier working on testing new biofouling control technologies at the Scottsdale Advanced Water Treatment Plant

Selected Publications

Rice, D., Rajwade, K., Zuo, K., Bansal, R., Garcia-Segura, S., Li, Q., Perreault, F. 2021 Electrochemically-active carbon nanotube coatings for biofouling mitigation: cleaning kinetics and energy consumption for cathodic and anodic regimes. Journal of Colloid and Interface Science.

Justino, N.M., Vicentini, D.S., Ranjbari, K., Bellier, M., Nogueira, D.J., Matias, W.G., Perreault, F. 2021. Nanoparticle-templated polyamide membranes for improved biofouling resistance. Environmental Science:Nano 8, 565-579.

Barrios, A.C., Carrillo, D., Waag, T.R., Rice, D., Bi, Y., Islam, R., Perreault, F. 2020. Prolonging the antibacterial activity of nanosilver-coated reverse osmosis membranes through partial sulfidation. Environmental Science:Nano 7, 3255-3278.

Inurria, A., Cay Durgun, P., Rice, D., Zhang, H., Seo, D.-K., Lind, M.L., Perreault, F. 2019. Polyamide thin-film nanocomposite membranes with graphene oxide nanosheets: balancing membrane performance and fouling propensity. Desalination 451, 139-147.

Rice, D., Barrios, A.C., Xiao, Z., Bogler, A., Bar-Zeev, E., Perreault, F. 2018. Development of anti-biofouling feed spacers to improve performance of reverse osmosis modules. Water Research 145, 599-607.

Funding sources

National Science Foundation (EEC- 1449500)

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (contract no. 80NSSC19C0566)

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (contract no. 80NSSC21C0035)

Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (AWD00035553)