Pressure drop increase by biofilm accumulation in spiral wound RO and NF membrane systems: Role of substrate concentration, flow velocity, substrate load and flow direction

Johannes Vrouwenvelder, C. Hinrichs, W. G.J. van der Meer, M. C.M. van Loosdrecht, J. C. Kruithof

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations

Abstract

In an earlier study, it was shown that biofouling predominantly is a feed spacer channel problem. In this article, pressure drop development and biofilm accumulation in membrane fouling simulators have been studied without permeate production as a function of the process parameters substrate concentration, linear flow velocity, substrate load and flow direction. At the applied substrate concentration range, 100-400 μg l-1 as acetate carbon, a higher concentration caused a faster and greater pressure drop increase and a greater accumulation of biomass. Within the range of linear flow velocities as applied in practice, a higher linear flow velocity resulted in a higher initial pressure drop in addition to a more rapid and greater pressure drop increase and biomass accumulation. Reduction of the linear flow velocity resulted in an instantaneous reduction of the pressure drop caused by the accumulated biomass, without changing the biofilm concentration. A higher substrate load (product of substrate concentration and flow velocity) was related to biomass accumulation. The effect of the same amount of accumulated biomass on the pressure drop increase was related to the linear flow velocity. A decrease of substrate load caused a gradual decline in time of both biomass concentration and pressure drop increase. It was concluded that the pressure drop increase over spiral wound reverse osmosis (RO) and nanofiltration (NF) membrane systems can be reduced by lowering both substrate load and linear flow velocity. There is a need for RO and NF systems with a low pressure drop increase irrespective of the biomass formation. Current efforts to control biofouling of spiral wound membranes focus in addition to pretreatment on membrane improvement. According to these authors, adaptation of the hydrodynamics, spacers and pressure vessel configuration offer promising alternatives. Additional approaches may be replacing heavily biofouled elements and flow direction reversal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)543-555
Number of pages13
JournalBiofouling
Volume25
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2009

Keywords

  • Feed spacer channel pressure drop increase
  • Linear flow velocity
  • Membrane fouling simulator
  • Nanofiltration
  • Reverse osmosis
  • Substrate load

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Water Science and Technology

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