UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Nanofiltration and Tight Ultrafiltration Membranes for Natural Organic Matter Removal—Contribution of Fouling and Concentration Polarization to Filtration Resistance Winter, Joerg; Barbeau, Benoit; Bérubé, Pierre


Nanofiltration (NF) and tight ultrafiltration (tight UF) membranes are a viable treatment option for high quality drinking water production from sources with high concentrations of contaminants. To date, there is limited knowledge regarding the contribution of concentration polarization (CP) and fouling to the increase in resistance during filtration of natural organic matter (NOM) with NF and tight UF. Filtration tests were conducted with NF and tight UF membranes with molecular weight cut offs (MWCOs) of 300, 2000 and 8000 Da, and model raw waters containing different constituents of NOM. When filtering model raw waters containing high concentrations of polysaccharides (i.e., higher molecular weight NOM), the increase in resistance was dominated by fouling. When filtering model raw waters containing humic substances (i.e., lower molecular weight NOM), the increase in filtration resistance was dominated by CP. The results indicate that low MWCO membranes are better suited for NOM removal, because most of the NOM in surface waters consist mainly of humic substances, which were only effectively rejected by the lower MWCO membranes. However, when humic substances are effectively rejected, CP can become extensive, leading to a significant increase in filtration resistance by the formation of a cake/gel layer at the membrane surface. For this reason, cross-flow operation, which reduces CP, is recommended.

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