Comparison of physico-chemical pretreatment methods to seawater reverse osmosis: Detailed analyses of molecular weight distribution of organic matter in initial stage

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Membrane Science, 2008, 320 (1-2), pp. 151 - 158
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In desalination, effective pretreatment is the key to reduce membrane fouling that occurs during the seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) process. However, it is difficult to compare the flux decline after different pretreatments using a small-scale reverse osmosis filtration unit. In this study, we successfully evaluated the effect of pretreatment on SWRO in terms of molecular weight distribution (MWD) of seawater organic matter (SWOM) after 20 h of SWRO operation. Microfiltration (MF), ultrafiltration (UF), ferric chloride (FeCl3) flocculation and powdered activated carbon (PAC) adsorption, were used as pretreatment. The effluents and the retentates after each pretreatment and 20 h of SWRO operation were characterized in terms of MWD. Although the normalized flux of SWRO showed similar flux decline (J/J0 = 0.17) with/without pretreatment, SWOM concentration in the retentates after different pretreatments was different in quantity and it increased linearly with time. The slope of the SWOM increase was 0.110, 0.096, 0.077 and 0.059 after MF, FeCl3 flocculation, UF and PAC adsorption pretreatments, respectively. MW peaks for the seawater used in this study consisted of 1200 Da (biopolymers), 950 Da (fulvic acids), 650 Da (hydrolysates of humic substances), 250 Da (low MW acids) and 90 Da (low MW neutrals and amphiphilics). FeCl3 flocculation preferentially removed 1200 Da (biopolymers), while PAC adsorption mostly removed 950 Da (fulvic acids). UF and NF removed only a marginal amount of relatively large organics, while RO removed the majority of organics. The intensity of 1200, 950, 650 and 250 Da MW in the RO retentates increased with the RO operation time. The organics of MW around 1200 Da (biopolymers) had a relatively low rate of increase with time compared with those of lower MW. This suggests that the SWOM of 1200 Da MW was preferentially retained on the membrane surface. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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