Effect of organic micropollutants on biofouling in a forward osmosis process integrating seawater desalination and wastewater reclamation

Y. Kim, L.H. Kim, J.S. Vrouwenvelder, N. Ghaffour
Journal of Hazardous Materials, p. 123386, (2020)


Forward osmosis (FO), organic micropollutants (OMPs), biofouling, osmotic dilution, next-generation sequencing, Optical coherence tomography (OCT)


​This study systematically investigated the effect of organic micropollutants (OMPs) on biofouling in forward osmosis (FO) integrating wastewater treatment and seawater dilution. Synthetic seawater (0.6 M sodium chloride) was used as a draw solution and synthetic municipal wastewater as a feed solution. To evaluate the impact of OMPs in a replicate parallel study, wastewater was supplemented with a mixture of 7 OMPs (OMPs-feed) and without OMPs (control) during 8 batch filtration cycles with feed and draw solution replacement after each filtration. The FO performance (water flux), development and microbial composition properties of biofilm layers on the wastewater side of the FO membrane were studied. Compared to the control without OMPs, the FO fed with OMPs containing wastewater showed (i) initially the same water flux and flux decline during the first filtration cycle, (ii) with increasing filtration cycle a lower flux decline and (iii) lower concentrations for the total cells, ATP, EPS carbohydrates and proteins in biofilm layers, and (iv) a lower diversity of the biofilm microbial community composition (indicating selective pressure) and (v) increasing rejection of 6 of the 7 OMPs. In essence, biofouling on the FO membrane showed (i) a lower flux decline in the presence of OMPs in the feed water and (ii) a higher OMPs rejection, both illustrating better membrane performance. This study has a significant implication for optimizing osmotic dilution in terms of FO operation and OMPs rejection.






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