(711a) Living Reverse Osmosis Membranes: A Model for the Beneficial Use of Engineered Biofilms

Authors: 
Wood, T. L., Pennsylvania State University
Guha, R., Pennsylvania State University
Kumar, M., Pennsylvania State University
Wood, T. K., Pennsylvania State University

Reverse osmosis membrane systems, increasingly used for developing new water sources and recycling water, are a key technology to ensure water sustainability. However, as with all membrane water treatment processes, biofouling, the build-up of microbes and their polymeric matrix, clogs these systems and reduces their efficiency. Realizing that a microbial film is inevitable, we engineered a beneficial biofilm that prevents membrane biofouling by limiting its own thickness by sensing the number of its cells that are present via a quorum-sensing circuit; the beneficial biofilm also prevents biofilm formation by deleterious bacteria by secreting nitric oxide, a general biofilm dispersal agent. In addition, the beneficial biofilm was engineered to produce an epoxide hydrolase so that it efficiently removes the environmental pollutant epichlorohydrin. Thus, we have created a living reverse osmosis system that simultaneously reduces biofouling while providing a platform for biodegradation of persistent organic pollutants.