Dynamic feed spacer for fouling minimization in forward osmosis process

Abstract
In this study, a dynamic feed spacer is used to minimize the fouling problem of forward osmosis (FO) membrane process. The conceptual design of the spacer consists of a series of microturbines assembled in ladder type filament cells and termed as turbospacer. It exploits the kinetic energy of the flowing feed solution to rotate the turbines and creates high flow turbulence in the feed channel to prevent the accumulation of foulants and related performance decline. This proof of concept study employed a 3D printed prototype of the proposed spacer in a lab-scale FO experimental setup to compare their performances with a symmetric non-woven spacer of the same thickness under the same operating condition as a reference. Primary effluent from municipal wastewater treatment plant was used as feed solution for a short term (6 days) fouling experiment in this study. Outcomes of the FO fouling experiment revealed that the turbospacer resulted in (i) a factor 2 lower spacer channel pressure drop built-up, and (ii) a 15% reduction in flux decline compared to the reference symmetric spacer. Almost 2.5 times lower foulant resistance was obtained by using the turbospacer at the end of the fouling experiment. In addition, the analysis of the foulant layer growth over a particular position of the membrane surface captured by an optical coherence tomography (OCT) device at different stages of the experiment exhibited that the turbospacer produced a thinner foulant layer. In summary, the turbospacer demonstrated better fouling prevention and control in the FO process.

Citation
Ali, S. M., Kim, Y., Qamar, A., Naidu, G., Phuntsho, S., Ghaffour, N., … Shon, H. K. (2021). Dynamic feed spacer for fouling minimization in forward osmosis process. Desalination, 515, 115198. doi:10.1016/j.desal.2021.115198

Acknowledgements
We acknowledge the support from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia for the fabrication of the 3D printed spacers and the experimental analysis. This study is also supported by the Qatar National Research Fund under its National Priorities Research Program (NPRP 12S-0227-190166).

Publisher
Elsevier BV

Journal
Desalination

DOI
10.1016/j.desal.2021.115198

Additional Links
https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0011916421002691

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