• Project No 2009
  • Project Name Protocol for developing chemical pre-treatment for high pressure membranes
  • Lead Organisation Water Research Australia
  • Research Lead UNSW Sydney
  • Main Researcher Greg Leslie, Alice Antony
  • Completion Year 2014

Project Description

Reverse osmosis (RO) is used to desalinate seawater and brackish groundwater, and to remove microscopic pathogens from treated wastewater. The salty water is pressurised on one side of the RO membrane and this is part of the process that results in water molecules passing (diffusing) through the membrane to the lower pressure solution on the other side. Salts such as sodium chloride (table salt) and calcium sulphate and calcium carbonate (scale) do not diffuse easily across the RO membrane and build up on the high-pressure side. Eventually scale deposition on the membrane prevents the diffusion of water molecules and the production of freshwater declines. This research tested four commercial and three in-house antiscalent chemicals, and additionally developed a technique to monitor scale formation and RO membrane performance in real-time. It was concluded that the antiscalent ‘PC-191T’ was best and that adding an ‘Electrical Impedance Spectroscope’ to RO systems has the potential to deliver a sensitive in-situ, real-time monitoring method capable of detecting very early scale formation, well before membrane performance declines. This will enable optimisation of membrane scale removal and improve the efficiency of freshwater production.