Critical flux-based membrane fouling control of forward osmosis: Behavior, sustainability, and reversibility

Tin-Tranh Nguyen, Seungho Kook, Chulmin Lee, Robert Field, In Kim

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44 Citations (Scopus)
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Membrane fouling is closely related to the concept of critical flux. Therefore, a fouling control strategy for forward osmosis (FO) membranes that is based on the critical flux is necessary. This study systematically investigated the critical flux behavior of FO membranes (CTA and PA-TFC) in the short-term using a stepping method (draw solution (DS) concentration stepping). In addition, to test the reliability of this method, long-term experiments were conducted to evaluate the influences of operational critical flux on the fouling behavior (sustainable operation and fouling reversibility/irreversibility), thereby determining the critical flux for reversibility. Our results showed that the DS concentration stepping could be applied for critical flux determination in FO. Both membranes exhibited higher critical flux values for alginate fouling compared to other single foulants such as colloidal silica or gypsum. The values were 15.9 LMH for a cellulose triacetate membrane (CTA) and 20.5 LMH for the polyamide thin-film composite (PA-TFC). Whilst these values should be adequate in FO applications they were determined for single foulants. The presence of multispecies of foulants caused a significant decline in the critical flux values. This study found 5.4 LMH for the CTA membrane and 8.3 LMH for the PA-TFC membrane for the combined foulants of alginate + gypsum. This indicates that the critical flux behavior in FO was dependent on the foulant type and membrane type. Importantly, the high restoration of water flux was achieved with the PA-TFC membrane at an operation either close to critical flux (92–98%) or below critical flux (98–100%) (i.e., with negligible irreversible fouling). The critical fluxes for reversibility obtained in this study will aid the efficient operation of practical FO processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)380-393
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
Early online date24 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


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