Osmotically-Driven Membrane Processes for Water Reuse and Energy Recovery
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Osmotically-driven membrane processes are an emerging class of membrane separation processes that utilize concentrated brines to separate liquid streams. Their versatility of application make them an attractive alternative for water reuse and energy production/recovery. This work focused on innovative applications of osmotically-driven membrane processes. The novel osmotic membrane bioreactor (OMBR) system for water reuse was presented. Experimental results demonstrated high sustainable flux and relatively low reverse diffusion of solutes from the draw solution into the mixed liquor. Membrane fouling was minimal and controlled with osmotic backwashing. The OMBR system was found to remove greater than 99% of organic carbon and ammonium-nitrogen. Forward osmosis (FO) can employ different draw solution in its process. More than 500 inorganic compounds were screened as draw solution candidates, the desktop screening process resulted in 14 draw solutions suitable for FO applications. The 14 draw solutions were then tested in the laboratory to evaluate water flux and reverse salt diffusion through the membrane. Results indicated a wide range of water flux and reverse salt diffusion depending on the draw solution utilized. Internal concentration polarization was found to lower both water flux and reverse salt diffusion by reducing the draw solution concentration at the interface between the support and dense layer of the membrane. A small group of draw solutions was found to be most suitable for FO processes with currently available FO membranes. Another application of osmotically-driven membrane processes is pressure retarded osmosis (PRO). PRO was investigated as a viable source of renewable energy. A PRO model was developed to predict water flux and power density under specific experimental conditions. The predictive model was tested using experimental results from a bench-scale PRO system. Previous investigations of PRO were unable to verify model predictions due to the lack of suitable membranes and membrane modules. In this investigation, for the first time, the use of a custom-made laboratory-scale membrane module enabled the collection of experimental PRO data. Results obtained with a flat-sheet cellulose triacetate FO membrane and NaCl feed and draw solutions closely matched model predictions. Power density was substantially reduced due to internal concentration polarization in the asymmetric membrane and, to a lesser degree, to salt passage. External concentration polarization was found to exhibit a relatively small effect on reducing the osmotic pressure driving force. Using the predictive PRO model, optimal membrane characteristics and module configuration can be determined in order to design a system specifically tailored for PRO processes.