KAUST DepartmentPhysical Sciences and Engineering (PSE) Division
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AbstractReverse osmosis successfully proves to remove more than 99% of solute in seawater, providing fresh water supply with satisfied quality. Due to some operational constraints, however, some trace contaminants removal, such as boron, cannot be achieved in one pass system. The stringent criterion for boron from World Health Organization (WHO) and Saudi Arabia local standard (0.5 mg/l) is hardly fulfilled by single pass sea water reverse osmosis (SWRO) plants. Some design processes have been proposed to deal with boron removal, but they are not economically efficient due to high energy and chemical consumption. The objective of this study was to study boron removal by different reverse osmosis membranes in two pH conditions, with and without antiscalant addition. Thus, it was expected to observe the possibility of operating single pass system and necessity to operate two pass system using low energy membrane. Five membrane samples were obtained from two different manufacturers. Three types of feed water pH were used, pH 8, pH 10, and pH 10 with antiscalant addition. Experiment was conducted in parallel to compare membrane performance from two manufacturers. Filtration was run with fully recycle mode for three days. Sample of permeate and feed were taken every 12 hours, and analyzed for their boron and TDS concentration. Membrane samples were also tested for their surface charge. The results showed that boron rejection increases as the feed pH increases. This was caused by dissociation of boric acid to negatively charged borate ion and more negatively charged membrane surface at elevated pH which enhance boron rejection. This study found that single pass reverse osmosis system, with and without elevating the pH, may not be possible to be applied because of two reasons. First, permeate quality in term of boron, does not fulfill WHO and local Saudi Arabia regulations. Second, severe scaling occurs due to operation in alkaline condition, since Ca and Mg concentration are still high to cause precipitation. Using low energy membrane at pH 10 may be considered, since it gives comparable performance to ordinary brackish water membranes in term of boron and TDS rejections, but consume less energy.