Effect of different commercial feed spacers on biofouling of reverse osmosis membrane systems: A numerical study

Feed spacers and hydrodynamics have been found relevant for the impact of biofouling on performance in reverse osmosis (RO) and nanofiltration (NF) membrane systems.The objectives of this study on biofouling development were to determine the impact of (i) linear flow velocity and bacterial cell load, (ii) biomass location and (iii) various feed spacer geometries as applied in practice as well as a modified geometry spacer.A three-dimensional mathematical model for biofouling of feed spacer channels including hydrodynamics, solute mass transport and biofilm formation was developed in COMSOL Multiphysics and MATLAB software.Results of this study indicate that the feed channel pressure drop increase caused by biofilm formation can be reduced by using thicker and/or modified feed spacer geometry and/or a lower flow rate in the feed channel. The increase of feed channel pressure drop by biomass accumulation is shown to be strongly influenced by the location of biomass. Results of numerical simulations are in satisfactory agreement with experimental data, indicating that this micro-scale mechanistic model is representative for practice. The developed model can help to understand better the biofouling process of spiral-wound RO and NF membrane systems and to develop strategies to reduce and control biofouling. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.

Bucs, S. S., Radu, A. I., Lavric, V., Vrouwenvelder, J. S., & Picioreanu, C. (2014). Effect of different commercial feed spacers on biofouling of reverse osmosis membrane systems: A numerical study. Desalination, 343, 26–37. doi:10.1016/j.desal.2013.11.007

This work was performed at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and Delft University of Technology. The preparation of this article was supported by funds of KAUST (www.kaustedu. sa), Evides waterbedrijf (www.evides.nl), Wetsus, Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Water Technology (www.wetsus.nl) and by the Sectorial Operational Programme "Human Resources Development 2007-2013" of the Romanian Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Protection through the Financial Agreement POSDRU/88/1.5/8/60203. Wetsus is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, the European Union European Regional Development Fund, the Province of Fryslan, the city of Leeuwarden and by the EZ-KOMPAS Program of the "Samenwerkingsverband Noord-Nederland". The authors thank the participants of the research theme "Biofouling" and Evides waterbedrijf for the fruitful discussions.

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