Determining pore size distribution is important for characterization of a dialysis membrane. However, conventional microscopic techniques cannot present a sufficient image for determining pore size distribution. In the present study, tapping mode atomic force microscopy (TMAFM) has been shown to be a powerful tool for observing and evaluating the small surface pores of a hollow-fiber dialysis membrane. Sample fixing technique described below and a highly sharpened probe have made it possible to observe small pores on a soft and undulant surface of a dialysis membrane. This is the first time that clear TMAFM images of surface pores of a hollow-fiber dialysis membrane at such high resolution have been presented. Pore diameter was determined by image analysis. Average pore diameter of APS-150 (Asahi-kasei, Japan) determined by TMAFM was compared with those by field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM) and by the Hagen-Poiseuille equation. The average pore diameter of APS-150 determined by TMAFM was slightly higher than that by FESEM. The average pore diameter determined by the Hagen-Poiseuille equation was intermediate between values for that of inside and outside surfaces determined by TMAFM.
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