How RO membrane performance affects cost

The research article 'How RO membrane permeability and other performance factors affect process cost and energy use: A review' has been published in Elsevier journal Desalination (Volume 470, 15 November 2019, 114064).


Reverse osmosis (RO) technology has progressed steadily over the last few decades. Those gains were achieved through improvements in both RO membrane element performance and energy recovery technologies. However, some recent literature indicates that RO membrane water permeability is approaching performance limits imposed by transport processes and thermodynamic constraints.

This paper reviews how RO membrane element performance affects the cost of RO processes, especially the specific energy consumption. RO membrane performance encompasses water permeability, salt permeability, and other some characteristics of the RO element. This paper considers not only conventional RO processes, but also the recently proposed closed-circuit RO and batch RO processes. Even if the membrane water permeability increases, little additional effect is found when the membrane water permeability exceeds around 3 LMH/bar for seawater RO and 8 LMH/bar for brackish water RO in conventional single-stage RO. Increasing membrane water permeability has the potential to decrease membrane surface area and associated costs. A major limitation of most existing literature is that performance is evaluation on in terms of the initial operating conditions. Chronological changes, such as result from fouling, must also be considered to accurately validate how membrane element performance affects RO cost.

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