Microfluidic model systems used to emulate processes occurring during soft particle filtration

Izabella Bouhid de Aguiar, Martine Meireles, Antoine Bouchoux, Karin Schroën*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Cake layer formation in membrane processes is an inevitable phenomenon. For hard particles, especially cake porosity and thickness determine the membrane flux, but when the particles forming the cake are soft, the variables one has to take into account in the prediction of cake behavior increase considerably. In this work we investigate the behavior of soft polyacrylamide microgels in microfluidic model membranes through optical microscopy for in situ observation both under regular flow and under enhanced gravity conditions. Particles larger than the pore are able to pass through deformation and deswelling. We find that membrane clogging time and cake formation is not dependent on the applied pressure but rather on particle and membrane pore properties. Furthermore, we found that particle deposits subjected to low pressures and low g forces deform in a totally reversible fashion. Particle deposits subjected to higher pressures only deform reversibly if they can re-swell due to capillary forces, otherwise irreversible compression is observed. For membrane processes this implies that when using deformable particles, the pore size is not a good indicator for membrane performance, and cake formation can have much more severe consequences compared to hard particles due to the sometimes-irreversible nature of soft particle compression.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3063
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2019


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