Recycled reverse osmosis membranes for forward osmosis technology

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The research article 'Recycled reverse osmosis membranes for forward osmosis technology' has been published in the journal Desalination (Volume 519, 1 December 2021, 115312).


An alternative use of end-of-life reverse osmosis (RO) membranes is proposed for forward osmosis (FO) application as recycled FO (RFO) membranes and transformed recycled FO (TRFO) membranes. Different passive cleaning protocols in pilot plant and laboratory scale were followed using sodium hypochlorite (NaClO) at different concentrations and exposure time. The RFO with the best performance was selected for its transformation by interfacial polymerization (IP) technique to improve further the FO performance. Both the morphological structure and transport properties of the RFO and TRFO membranes were studied by means of different characterization techniques. Although the RFO membranes are suitable for FO, the TRFO membranes are more competitive. The highest FO water permeate fluxes (12.21 kg/m2·h and 15.12 kg/m2·h) were obtained for the membrane recycled applying the highest NaClO exposure dose applied in pilot plant (106 ppm·h) followed by IP of a thin polyamide layer. These permeate fluxes were better or at least comparable to commercial membranes used under the same FO conditions. The results indicated that it is possible to use discarded RO membranes in FO technology for wastewater treatment after adequate treatment procedures extending their lifetime and contributing to a circular economy and sustainability in membrane science and related materials.

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