Pressure retarded osmosis (PRO) is a promising technology to harvest renewable osmotic energy using a semipermeable membrane. However, a significant flux reduction has been always observed that severely shrinks the harvestable power to a level only marginally higher or even lower than the economically feasible value. This work focuses on the elucidation of various underlying mechanisms responsible for the flux reduction. First, both inner-selective and outer-selective thin film composite (TFC) hollow fiber membranes are employed to examine how the fundamental internal factors (such as the surface salinity of the selective layer at the feed side (CF,m) and its components) interact with one another under the fixed bulk salinity gradient, resulting in various behaviours of external performance indexes such as water flux, reverse salt flux, and power density. Then, the research is extended to investigate the effects of the growing bulk feed salinity due to the accumulated reverse salt flux along PRO modules. Finally, the insights obtained from the prior two stationary conditions are combined with the advanced nucleation theory to elucidate the dynamic scaling process by visualizing how the multiple fundamental factors (such as local supersaturation, nucleation rate and nuclei size) evolve and interplay with one another in various membrane regimes during the whole scaling process. To our best knowledge, it is the first time that the advanced nucleation theory is applied to study the PRO scaling kinetics in order to provide subtle and clear pictures of the events occurring inside the membrane. This study may provide useful insights to design more suitable TFC hollow fiber membranes and to operate them with enhanced water flux so that the PRO process may become more promising in the near future.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Filtration and Separation
- Materials Science(all)
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry