Comparison of membrane distillation and freeze crystallizer as alternatives for reverse osmosis concentrate treatment

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Journal Article
Desalination, 2018, 427 pp. 10 - 18
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© 2017 Elsevier B.V. Membrane distillation (MD) and freeze crystallizer (FC) were evaluated as alternative reverse osmosis concentrate (ROC) treatment options. A direct contact MD (DCMD) was capable of obtaining 60% water recovery with chemically pretreated ROC. Nevertheless, in repeated cycles, DCMD displayed a trend of reduced water recovery and declining permeate quality. At elevated concentrations, ROC caused scaling and membrane hydrophobicity reduction, indicating reduced membrane life span. On the other hand, FC in three-stage freeze/thaw approach was able to concentrate ROC by 2.3 time, achieving a 57% water recovery with no scaling issues. The fresh ice water quality (total dissolved solids) obtained from FC was within the range of 0.08–0.37 g/L. A brief techno-economic evaluation highlighted advantages and limitations of both options. The efficiency of DCMD as a compact, low thermal process for ROC treatment was compromised by membrane scaling, indicating the necessity for a scaling mitigation pretreatment. This invariably incurs an additional cost. FC was advantageous as a scaling and chemical free process. The high freezing requirement of FC could be met by coupling with refrigerant coolant from liquefied natural gas. Nevertheless, the practical industrial application of FC is inherently restricted due to complex scaling up issues.
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