Removal and fouling mechanisms in nanofiltration of polysaccharide solutions

16 November 2010

Tubular membrane filtration is an important process when feed waters with a relatively high solids content are filtered. Such solids would normally have to be removed in a pre-treatment stage if spiral wound modules are to be used. High solids content occurs for example in high turbidity surface waters, wastewaters that contain fibrous materials or in waters where coagulants are added. Tubular membranes can be used directly in nanofiltration (NF) and in this study fouling by a solution containing polysaccharides is examined. The study was designed in view of a wastewater recycling application where polysaccharides like cellulose are a major constituent of the effluent organic matter (EfOM) and colloidal organics. The investigation was performed with various organic compounds and varying solution chemistry namely pH and ionic strength. Two solutes in several concentrations have been used: Cellulose (particulate) and microcrystalline cellulose (colloidal) in addition with various CaCl2 and NaCl concentrations. The operating parameters investigated were cross flow velocity, transmembrane pressure (TMP) and pH. Membranes were cleaned after each filtration experiment and flux recovery was measured. As a general trend, it was observed that with increasing cellulose concentration fouling increases and that solution chemistry plays an important role in the association of foulants with the membranes. The permeability decreases for high and neutral pH conditions in the presence of salt ions. Calcium affects the flux more than sodium. The permeability at acidic pH values is relatively low and not influenced by the ions as much as for other pH conditions. Electrostatic interactions between membrane, salt ions and cellulose can explain this behaviour. Calcium ions were confirmed to play an important role in membrane fouling. Increasing cross flow velocity decreases the reversible fouling but increases the irreversible fouling.