The number of scientific publications around forward osmosis (FO) has been increasing exponentially for nearly 30 years. Most of such research is driven by the opinion (usually spelled out in publications on this subject) that FO is advantageous compared to competing membrane technologies owing to its low energy consumption and low fouling. Yet, FO seems to have a hard time being adopted at industrial scale and its reputation in the academic circles is passionately mixed. This presentation will provide a rational, albeit personal, account of recent advances around FO and a discussion on its possible future directions in the field of water and wastewater management, and of liquid separation in general. Some details will be discussed in relation to a few aspects of the technology, including fouling behavior, process intensification, membrane development, and potential for specific applications, focusing on ongoing research performed at Politecnico di Torino but also tapping on selected reports from other research groups worldwide.
Alberto Tiraferri is Associate Professor of Applied Environmental Engineering in the Department of Environment, Land and Infrastructure Engineering at Politecnico di Torino, Italy (PoliTo). At PoliTo, Prof. Tiraferri is the principal investigator of the en.sur.e. water lab and the scientific manager of the interdepartmental Clean Water Center. His research interests include: (i) membrane process engineering for water treatment and resource efficiency; (ii) decontamination and water purification using advanced oxidation; (iii) applications of innovative techniques for the reclamation of contaminated environment systems. Prof. Tiraferri received his Ph.D. from Yale University in 2012 in Chemical and Environmental Engineering under the supervision of Prof. Menachem Elimelech. Before moving to Torino in 2015, Prof. Tiraferri worked for two years as a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow in the lab of Prof. Michal Borkovec at the University of Geneva in Switzerland.