Biofouling of seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) membranes is a major problem that SWRO freshwater production facilities face worldwide. A three-step pretreatment scheme, initially designed to assist the SWRO process in boron rejection, was examined as a potential membrane biofouling inhibitor. The conventional pretreatment procedure in this study includes acidification, CO2 stripping and pH elevation, and its effect on planktonic cell mortality and biofilm formation on the membrane was analyzed. An in-situ electrolytic production of free chlorine in seawater, during the low pH phase, was suggested as an additional pretreatment step, with the goal of serving as an aggressive disinfection course. In addition, 48-hour enhanced biofouling experiments using an RO membrane cell assembly were conducted in order to observe the flux decline pattern as affected by the various treatments. The conventional pretreatment scheme was found to have a moderate effect on membrane biofouling, increasing the membrane permeability by 25% relative to an untreated experimental run. Moreover, the conventional pretreatment did not significantly promote cell mortality; however, it caused an increase in extracellular polysaccharide production during biofilm formation. The additional chlorination step increased the biofouling phenomenon, causing the production of particulate matter, likely due to cell wall oxidation.
- Free chlorine electro-generation
- Reverse osmosis