Rejection of micropollutants by clean and fouled forward osmosis membrane

Rodrigo Valladares Linares, Victor Yangali-Quintanilla, Zhenyu Li, Gary L. Amy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

205 Scopus citations


As forward osmosis (FO) gains attention as an efficient technology to improve wastewater reclamation processes, it is fundamental to determine the influence of fouling in the rejection of emerging contaminants (micropollutants). This study focuses on the rejection of 13 selected micropollutants, spiked in a secondary wastewater effluent, by a FO membrane, using Red Sea water as draw solution (DS), differentiating the effects on the rejection caused by a clean and fouled membrane. The resulting effluent was then desalinated at low pressure with a reverse osmosis (RO) membrane, to produce a high quality permeate and determine the rejection with a coupled forward osmosis - low pressure reverse osmosis (FO-LPRO) system. When considering only FO with a clean membrane, the rejection of the hydrophilic neutral compounds was between 48.6% and 84.7%, for the hydrophobic neutrals the rejection ranged from 40.0% to 87.5%, and for the ionic compounds the rejections were between 92.9% and 96.5%. With a fouled membrane, the rejections were between 44.6% and 95.2%, 48.7%-91.5% and 96.9%-98.6%, respectively. These results suggest that, except for the hydrophilic neutral compounds, the rejection of the micropollutants is increased by the presence of a fouling layer, possibly due to the higher hydrophilicity of the FO fouled membrane compared to the clean one, the increased adsorption capacity of hydrophilic compounds and reduced mass transport capacity, membrane swelling, and the higher negative charge of the membrane surface, related to the foulants composition, mainly NOM acids (carboxylic radicals) and polysaccharides or polysaccharide-like substances. However, when coupled with RO, the rejections in both cases increased above 96%. The coupled FO-LPRO system was an effective double barrier against the selected micropollutants. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6737-6744
Number of pages8
JournalWater Research
Issue number20
StatePublished - Dec 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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