Innovations in Membrane Cleaning
By Stephen P. Chesters and Matthew W. Armstrong
Reverse osmosis (RO) membrane cleaning is essential for efficient plant operation and yet there has been very little innovation or development in more than 30 years. This article reviews best practice on RO membrane cleaning. It challenges preconceptions and describes novel approaches for the removal of foulants and scale deposits from membrane surfaces. Over the last 10 years, there have been significant developments in new devices for energy recovery, new membrane materials, and new sizes and orientations of RO plants, all designed to reduce costs and improve efficiency. The fundamental issue of keeping membrane surfaces clean to ensure efficient RO plant operation has seen relatively few new ideas. This is surprising as any fouling of the membrane surface will have a dramatic effect on energy consumption and plant efficiency. This article demystifies RO membrane cleaning, which is often described by practitioners as an art as much as a science. The more science that is applied the better results will be. Current best practice is reviewed and practical suggestions are given to improve results. These include: 1. When to clean?; 2. What to clean with?; 3. How to clean?; and 4. Innovations.
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