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Use of Heated Metal Oxide Particles (HMOPs) as Adsorbents for Membrane Fouling Reduction in Water Reuse/Desalination Applications

Project: 14-09
Estimated Release: 2017
Type: Report

Program: Tailored Collaboration
Funding Partner: American Water
Total Investment: $528,090 (Cash: $135,000, In-Kind cash and service: $393,090)

Principal Investigator: Dr. Orren Schneider, Ph.D., American Water


Membrane technologies are widely used in the water, wastewater, and reuse industry for removal of particles (low-pressure micro- or ultrafiltration), organic matter (ultra- and nanofiltration), and/or ions (osmosis or ion exchange). Regardless of the primary application, however, fouling of the membranes is a major problem and fouling control and/or membrane cleaning is the focus of significant research. HMOPs have been shown to adsorb natural organic matter from water and are useful for fouling reduction in low pressure membranes.

Goals and Objectives

The project will examine the hypothesis that HMOPs can significantly reduce fouling of low pressure membranes and/or downstream reverse osmosis membranes in reuse and/or desalination applications.

Research Approach

The project team will:

  • Conduct a brief literature review on the ability of adsorbents to remove organic matter in reuse and desalination applications with emphasis on upstream use to reduce membrane fouling. Case studies will also be included.
  • Benchmark the ability of adsorbents, including HMOPs, conventional coagulants, and PAC, to remove organic fractions from a variety of membrane feed systems for fresh and salt waters.
  • Examine batch-to-batch variability (particle size, zeta potential, etc.) of HIOPs and HAOPs created in the lab.
  • Based on the results of phase 2 and using a small (~2 gpm) pilot-scale apparatus at a utility, feed either HAOPs or HIOPs upstream of a low pressure PVDF membrane to examine the impacts on membrane fouling to determine the fractions of NOM involved with low pressure ultrafiltration (UF) membrane fouling.
  • Operate a pilot-scale application of HMOPs with a hybrid membrane system (UF followed by reverse osmosis) to evaluate the impacts of HMOPs on high pressure membrane fouling. As with phase 4, this pilot system will be operated at a utility site.
  • Develop a cost model to evaluate the benefits of HIOPs and HAOPs for reduction in membrane fouling (cleaning), operating costs (energy and labor), chemical, and disposal costs. Determine the benefits relative to other treatment alternatives.

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