Transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) are ubiquitous in marine and freshwater environments. For the past two decades, the distribution and ecological roles of these polysaccharide microgels in aquatic systems were extensively investigated. More recent studies have implicated TEP as an active agent in biofilm formation and membrane fouling. Since biofouling is one of the main hurdles for efficient operation of membrane-based technologies, there is a heightened interest in understanding the role of TEP in engineered water systems. In this review, we describe relevant TEP terminologies while critically discussing TEP biological origin, biochemical and physical characteristics, and occurrence and distributions in aquatic systems. Moreover, we examine the contribution of TEP to biofouling of various membrane technologies used in the desalination and water/wastewater treatment industry. Emphasis is given to the link between TEP physicochemical and biological properties and the underlying biofouling mechanisms. We highlight that thorough understanding of TEP dynamics in feedwater sources, pretreatment challenges, and biofouling mechanisms will lead to better management of fouling/biofouling in membrane technologies. (Figure Presented).
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2014 American Chemical Society.