Rubidium extraction from seawater brine by an integrated membrane distillation-selective sorption system

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Journal Article
Water Research, 2017, 123 pp. 321 - 331
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© 2017 Elsevier Ltd The ultimate goal of seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) brine management is to achieve minimal liquid discharge while recovering valuable resources. The suitability of an integrated system of membrane distillation (MD) with sorption for the recovery of rubidium (Rb+) and simultaneous SWRO brine volume reduction has been evaluated for the first time. Polymer encapsulated potassium copper hexacyanoferrate (KCuFC(PAN)) sorbent exhibited a good selectivity for Rb+ sorption with 10–15% increment at 55 °C (Langmuir Qmax = 125.11 ± 0.20 mg/g) compared to at 25 °C (Langmuir Qmax = 108.71 ± 0.20 mg/g). The integrated MD-KCuFC(PAN) system with periodic membrane cleaning, enabled concentration of SWRO brine to a volume concentration factor (VCF) of 2.9 (65% water recovery). A stable MD permeate flux was achieved with good quality permeate (conductivity of 15–20 μS/cm). Repeated cycles of MD-KCuFC(PAN) sorption with SWRO brine enabled the extraction of 2.26 mg Rb+ from 12 L of brine (equivalent to 1.9 kg of Rb/day, or 0.7 tonne/yr from a plant producing 10,000 m3/day brine). KCuFC(PAN) showed a high regeneration and reuse capacity. NH4Cl air stripping followed by resorcinol formaldehyde (RF) resin filtration enabled to recover Rb+ from the desorbed solution.
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