The subject of this work is the development of a novel vibration assisted seawater desalination approach which changes thermodynamic (mass transfer coefficient) and hydrodynamic (cross-flow velocity) properties to mitigate the inorganic fouling for RO membranes.
A classical mass transport model and experimental measurements showed that an increased cross-flow velocity in the feed channel enhances the near membrane mass transfer coefficient, which promotes the back-diffusion of inorganic salts and reduces the concentration polarization (CP). Then a theoretical CP Finite Element Method (FEM) model incorporating increased cross-flow velocity reveals that a lower CP modulus forms near the membrane surface with a higher vibration frequency, which results in less fouling on the membrane surface.
The vibration assisted desalination process was demonstrated using a linear motor driven, periodically oscillating desalination cell. A smaller flux decline was observed while using a higher vibration frequency (with a constant sinusoidal amplitude) and a higher vibration velocity (in multiple vibration forms).
Process simulations and experimental observations validated that the proposed vibration assisted desalination process helps enhance the permeate flux and mitigate the formation of inorganic fouling on the RO membrane surface.