Polyelectrolyte-based sacrificial protective layer for fouling control in RO desalination

Moon Son, Wulin Yang, Szilard Bucs, Maria F. Nava-Ocampo, Johannes Vrouwenvelder, Bruce E. Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Reverse osmosis (RO) membranes inevitably foul due to the accumulation of material on the membrane surface. Instead of trying to reduce membrane fouling by chemical modification of the membrane, a different approach was taken here based on adding a sacrificial coating of two polyelectrolytes onto the membrane. After membrane fouling, this coating was removed by flushing with a highly saline brine solution, and a new coating was regenerated in situ to provide a fresh protective layer (PL) on the membrane surface. The utility of this approach was demonstrated by conducting four consecutive dead-end filtration experiments using a model foulant (alginate, 200 ppm) in a synthetic brackish water (2,000 ppm NaCl). Brine removal and regeneration of the PL coating restored the water flux to an average of 97 ± 3% of its initial flux, compared to only 83 ± 3% for the pristine membrane. The average water flux for the PL coated membranes was 15.5 ± 0.6 L m-2 h-1 until the flux was decreased by 10% versus its initial flux, compared to 13.4 ± 0.5 L m-2 h-1 for the non-treated control. The use of a sacrificial PL coating could therefore provide a more sustainable approach for addressing RO membrane fouling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)584-590
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology Letters
Volume5
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes

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