A numerical assessment of the efficacy of a topography design with increasing gradient complexity for filtering biofouling material through the membrane module of a water treatment system

This is a numerical project that applies Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to vary the gradient complexity of surface topographies to determine if this characteristic will encourage or discourage the biofouling phenomenon.

Biofouling is formed from the accumulation of biotic deposits on the submerged surface. This phenomenon is commonly found on medical instruments, infrastructure in marine industries and filtration membranes in water treatment plants. Over the years, researchers have developed a method to prevent biofouling by changing the surface’s topographies. These micro-topographies are toxic-free and therefore does not have negative impact on the environment. Most patterns for micro-topographies are bioinspired by natural surface such as that of the shark skin, lotus leaves, honeycomb, and pilot whale’s skin. Micro-topographies are suitable to be used in the membrane module of a water treatment system because of its lack of toxicity and potential long term use. While there is interest in topography application for antifouling purposes, there still seems to be a lack in studies that have looked into increasing the gradient complexity of biomimicry topology designs for membrane modules of a water treatment system. The purpose of this research is to design an optimum topography design with increasing gradient complexity with antifouling potential for membrane modules of a water treatment system. In this research an optimum topography design is determined, illustrated with SolidWorks and simulated with Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to determine the hydrodynamic characteristics around the topography itself. Parameters of interest from the CFD simulations will include shear stresses, velocity and potentially shear strain rate as well. In this research topic, the shark skin and honeycomb design will be selected as potential topography designs and modified to introduce elements of increasing gradient complexity. For shark riblets, the surface tip will likely be smaller to reduce potential attachment of organisms on the surface for biofouling. It is postulated that the shark skin topography will have higher antifouling potential for the membrane module of a water treatment system.

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