Transition-state theory predicts clogging at the microscale

T. van de Laar, S. ten Klooster, K. Schroën, J. Sprakel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Clogging is one of the main failure mechanisms encountered in industrial processes such as membrane filtration. Our understanding of the factors that govern the build-up of fouling layers and the emergence of clogs is largely incomplete, so that prevention of clogging remains an immense and costly challenge. In this paper we use a microfluidic model combined with quantitative real-time imaging to explore the influence of pore geometry and particle interactions on suspension clogging in constrictions, two crucial factors which remain relatively unexplored. We find a distinct dependence of the clogging rate on the entrance angle to a membrane pore which we explain quantitatively by deriving a model, based on transition-state theory, which describes the effect of viscous forces on the rate with which particles accumulate at the channel walls. With the same model we can also predict the effect of the particle interaction potential on the clogging rate. In both cases we find excellent agreement between our experimental data and theory. A better understanding of these clogging mechanisms and the influence of design parameters could form a stepping stone to delay or prevent clogging by rational membrane design.

Original languageEnglish
Article number28450
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2016

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