Steady state crossflow microfiltration (CMF) is an important and often necessary means of particle separation and concentration for both industrial and biomedical processes. The factors controlling the performance of CMF have been extensively reviewed. A major factor is transmembrane pressure (TMP). Because microchannels have small height, they tend to have high pressure gradients in the feed-flow direction. In the extreme, these gradients may even reverse the pressure across the membrane (inciting backflow). It is therefore desirable to compensate for the effect of feed-flow on the TMP, aiming at constant transmembrane pressure (cTMP) at a value which maximizes filtrate flux. This is especially critical during filtration of deformable particles (e.g. erythrocytes) through low intrinsic resistance membranes. Filtration flux is generally taken to be directly proportional to TMP, with pressure drop along the channel decreasing in the flow direction. A co-current flow of filtrate in a suitably designed filtrate collecting channel is shown to allow the TMP to remain constant and permit the sieving surface to perform optimally, permitting up to twice as much filtration over that of a naïve configuration. Manipulation of the filtrate channel may be even more beneficial if it prevents backflow that might otherwise occur at the end of a sufficiently long channel. Experiments with erythrocyte suspensions, reported here, validate these concepts.
- Constant transmembrane pressure
- Microfiltration model