While membrane bioreactor (MBR) technology is generally considered as one of the most promising technologies for wastewater treatment and recovery, membrane fouling remains the major obstacle limiting its applications. Interfacial interactions, which critically determine adhesion process and membrane fouling, were investigated in this study. It was found that, natural membrane surface was of a Gaussian surface obeying Gaussian distribution. A Gaussian approach integrating Fourier transform technique, Gaussian distribution and spectrum method was deduced to simulate rough surface topography of membrane. Thereafter, surface element integral (SE!) method, together with composite Simpson rule and triangulation of Gaussian surface was proposed to calculate interfacial interactions. By using the unified method, quantification of interfacial interactions with a Gaussian membrane surface was realized for the first time to date. It was further found that, membrane surface topography had profound impacts on interfacial interactions and adhesive fouling in the MBR. The deduced method can be used to address impacts of various factors on interfacial interactions and adhesive fouling, posing in-depth thermodynamic insights into membrane fouling and pointing towards its widespread potential in fouling research in MBRs. (C) 2018 Elsevier inc. All rights reserved.