Evaluating the Feasibility of Forward Osmosis in Diluting RO Concentrate Using Pretreatment Backwash Water

Membranes (Basel). 2020 Feb 25;10(3):35. doi: 10.3390/membranes10030035.


Forward osmosis (FO) is an excellent membrane process to dilute seawater (SW) reverse osmosis (RO) concentrate for either to increase the water recovery or for safe disposal. However, the low fluxes through FO membranes as well the biofouling/scaling of FO membranes are bottlenecks of this process requiring larger membrane area and membranes with anti-fouling properties. This study evaluates the performance of hollow fibre and flat sheet membranes with respect to flux and biofouling. Ferric hydroxide sludge was used as impaired water mimicking the backwash water of a filter that is generally employed as pretreatment in a SWRO plant and RO concentrate was used as draw solution for the studies. Synthetic salts are also used as draw solutions to compare the flux produced. The study found that cellulose triacetate (CTA) flat sheet FO membrane produced higher flux (3-6 L m-2 h-1) compared to that produced by polyamide (PA) hollow fibre FO membrane (less than 2.5 L m-2 h-1) under the same experimental conditions. Therefore, long-term studies conducted on the flat sheet FO membranes showed that fouling due to ferric hydroxide sludge did not allow the water flux to increase more than 3.15 L m-2 h-1.

Keywords: biofouling; fertilizers; flat sheet; flux; forward osmosis (FO); hollow fibre; reverse osmosis (RO).