Energy efficient 3D printed column type feed spacer for membrane filtration

Syed Muztuza Ali, Adnan Qamar, Sarah Kerdi, S. Phuntsho, Johannes S. Vrouwenvelder, NorEddine Ghaffour, H.K. Shon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Modification of the feed spacer design significantly influences the energy consumption of membrane filtration processes. This study developed a novel column type feed spacer with the aim to reduce the specific energy consumption (SEC) of the membrane based water filtration system. The proposed spacer increases the clearance between the filament and the membrane (reducing the spacer filament diameter) while keeping the same flow channel thickness as compared to a standard non-woven symmetric spacer. Since the higher clearance reduces the flow unsteadiness, column type nodes were added in the spacer structure as additional vortex shading bodies. Fluid flow behaviour in the channel for this spacer was numerically simulated by 3D CFD studies and then compared with the standard spacer. The numerical results showed that the proposed spacer substantially reduced the pressure drop, shear stress at the constriction region and shortened the dead zone. Finally, these findings were confirmed experimentally by investigating the filtration performances using the 3D printed prototypes of these spacers in a lab-scale filtration module. It is observed that the column spacer reduced the pressure drop by three times and doubled the specific water flux. 2D OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) scans of the membrane surface acquired after the filtration revealed much lower biomass accumulation using the proposed spacer. Consequently, the SEC for the column spacer was found about two folds lower than the standard spacer.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)114961
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Aug 6 2019


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