Although the principal mechanisms of crossflow microfiltration (MF) are well-known, the practical applicability of the resulting microfiltration models is still limited. This can be largely attributed to the lack of understanding of effects of polydispersity in the particulate suspensions, as relevant to concentration polarisation in MF. This paper describes an investigation of concentration polarisation behaviour of bidisperse suspensions, in the regime where shear-induced diffusion is the dominant back-transport mechanism. In the transient flux regime, the particle deposition onto the membrane was monitored by means of confocal scanning laser microscopy. As in accordance with the linear dependence of the shear-induced diffusivity on a2, only the small particles in the bidisperse suspensions were found to deposit onto the membrane. The back-transport flux that was calculated from the deposition rate and the actual permeate flux, was found to be independent of the composition of the suspension, whereas it was equal to the back-transport flux of a monodisperse suspension of the small particles only, with a similar total particle fraction. These results can be explained with the occurrence of particle size segregation in the feed flow, which leads to an enrichment with small particles of the suspension near the membrane. The findings are also shown to be relevant to particle fractionation processes by MF. In such fractionation processes, particle size segregation is found to have a strong effect on the separation characteristics such as particle size and fat content of the permeate. A polydisperse suspension could be fractionated using a membrane having a pore size larger than the largest particles present. The fractionation thus results not from size exclusion in the membrane, but from segregation effects in the feed channel.
- shear-induced diffusion
- feed suspension