Alternative water treatment

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Alternate water treatment processes will focus on desalination. However, some of the membrane processes can be used for freshwater sources.


Membrane Processes •A membrane is a selective barrier that permits the separation of certain species in a fluid by combination of sieving and diffusion mechanisms •Membranes can separate particles and molecules and over a wide particle size range and molecular weights


Membrane Processes Four common types of membranes: Reverse Osmosis Nanofiltration Ultrafiltration Microfiltration


Membrane Processes are becoming popular because they are considered “Green” technology - no chemicals are used in the process.


The R.O. membrane is semi-permeable with thin layer of annealed material supported on a more porous sub-structure. The thin skin is about 0.25 micron thick and has pore size in the 5 – 10 Angstrom range. The porous sub-structure is primarily to support the thin skin. The pore size of the skin limits transport to certain size molecules. Dissolved ions such as Na and Cl are about the same size as water molecules.


However, the charged ions seem to be repelled by the active portion of the membrane and water is attracted to it. So adsorbed water will block the passage and exclude ions. Under pressure attached water will be transferred through the pores.


Nanofiltration is a complementary process to reverse osmosis, where divalent cations and anions are preferentially rejected over the monovalent cations and anions. Some organics with MW > 100 -500 are removed There is an osmotic pressure developed but it is less than that of the R.O. process. Microfiltration and Ultrafiltration are essentially membrane processes that rely on pure straining through porosity in the membranes. Pressure required is lower than R.O. and due entirely to frictional headloss


Most common types of RO are: Spiral Wound Hollow Fiber


Hollow fiber:


Spiral wound


Spiral UF system


Pressure requirements are based on osmotic pressure for R.O., osmotic pressure and fluid mechanical frictional headloss (straining) for nanofiltration, and purely fluid mechanical frictional headloss (straining) for ultra- and microfiltration.


If clean water and water with some concentration of solute are separated by a semi-permeable membrane (permeable to only water) water will be transported across the membrane until increases hydrostatic pressure on the solute side will force the process to stop.


Pressure requirements are based on osmotic pressure for R.O.


The osmotic pressure head (at equilibrium) can be calculated from thermodynamics. The chemical potential (Gibbs free energy per mole) of the solvent and the solute(s) in any phase can be described as:


Where is the “standard state” free energy of a pure solvent or solute at T and p (usually 250C and 1 atm). Xi = mole fraction of solvent or solute. At equilibrium for the solute and pure solvent system, respectively:




After some algebraic manipulation:


Osmotic Pressure for water in Gulf of Maine: Salinity = 30 ppt Osmotic pressure = 22 atm = 300 psi


Water flux through the membrane is the most important design and operational parameter. Next most important is solute exclusion. Some solute will diffuse (by molecular diffusion) through the membrane because there will be a significant gradient of the solute across the membrane. Water Flux:


Solute transport is complicated by the type of ions being transported. Transport is generally modeled by : Fs = salt flux (g/cm2 –sec)


Applications of Micro- and Ultrafiltration: Conventional water treatment (replace all processes except disinfection). Pretreat water for R.O and nanofiltration.


Applications for R.O. and nanofiltration: R.O. application mostly desalination. Nanofiltration first developed to remove hardness.


Operating pressure ranges: R.O./NF: 80 – 600 psig MF/UF: 5 – 60 psig


Fouling of membranes due to accumulation of solute/particulates at the membrane interface has to be addressed for economic reasons. The membranes are too expensive to be replaced for reasons of fouling.




There are various ways to reduce this fouling such as: Periodic pulsing of feed Periodic pulsing filtrate (backwashing) Increasing shear at by rotating membrane Vibrating membrane (VSEP technology , next slide)


Vibrating shear to prevent fouling VSEP Technology


A common method to clean the membrane system is to just reverse the flow pattern:


Pressure/Energy required for desalination using RO: Osmotic Pressure for seawater = 350 psig (seawater salt concentration = 0.5 moles/l or 35 g/l of TDS) Pressure applied = 600 to 1000 psig Energy required = 5 kWh/m3 of water


In the ED process a semi-permeable barrier allows passage of either positively charged ions (cations) or negatively charged ions (anions) while excluding passage of ions of the opposite charge. These semi-permeable barriers are commonly known as ion-exchange, ion-selective or electrodialysis membranes. Electrodialysis:


Power requirements for Electrodialysis are very feed water TDS dependent. Feed Water TDS (g/L) Energy (kWh/m3) 15 (brackish) 1.5 35 (seawater) 4 (Voltage generally less than 10 volts) (Product water = 0.5 g/L)


Output of Solar Still:


Typical output: E = 0.3 G = 18 MJ/m2 (5 kwh/m2) A = 1 m2


Salt water is evaporated using solar heat, the produced humidity is condensed accordingly. The heat used for evaporation is mostly regained during the condensation as the raw water is preheated during the condensation process.


Multistage Flash Evaporation

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