The effect of residual cationic polymers in swine wastewater on the fouling of reverse osmosis membranes.

Pedersen, C.Ø., Masse, L., and Hjorth, M. (2014). "The effect of residual cationic polymers in swine wastewater on the fouling of reverse osmosis membranes.", Environmental Technology, 35(11), pp. 1338-1344. doi : 10.1080/09593330.2013.868038  Access to full text


Solid–liquid separation with flocculation can be used as pre-treatment for reverse osmosis (RO) filtration as it produces a liquid fraction (LF) low in suspended solids (SS). However, residual polymers in the LF may foul the membrane. Membrane fouling during RO filtration of swine wastewater containing polymers was investigated with respect to polymer charge density (CD), effluent SS concentration and membrane surface charge. Effluents with 765 mg/L SS and without SS were spiked with low and medium CD polymers (0–40 mg/L effluent) then processed with RO membranes having low and high negative surface charges. Fouling intensity was evaluated by comparing permeate flux and water flux recovery of fouled and cleaned membranes. For effluents containing SS, the presence of polymer reduced permeate flux by 4–16% and water flux recovery of the fouled membrane by 0–18%, relative to effluents without polymer. The extent of the fouling was higher with the low than the medium CD polymer. The fouling was mostly reversible as cleaning allowed for over 95% flux recovery, but the membrane with high negative surface charge was more susceptible to irreversible fouling. Adding the low CD polymer to feed without SS had no effect on permeate flux or flux recovery. Membrane fouling thus appeared to be caused by the polymer changing SS–membrane interaction. If flocculation is applied to pre-treat manure, a medium CD polymer should be used to optimize SS removal and a membrane with low surface charge should be selected to minimize fouling.

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