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Anti-fouling pre-treatment for membranes

By Scott Jenkins |

Researchers at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST; Seoul, South Korea; www.kist.re.kr) led by Seongpil Jeong have developed a pre-treatment method for membrane distillation desalination processes that involves adding magnesium to seawater to prevent scale formation (anti-fouling) on the membrane. Adding magnesium chloride to the seawater before contact with the membrane allows Mg ions to combine with sulfate and carbonate ions present in the seawater, and thus prevent formation of calcium carbonate and calcium sulfate, which were found to be the major components of scale, the researchers say. The team also found that the added MgCl2 increased the stability of the hydrophobic membrane, thereby increasing wetting resistance. Membrane distillation desalination technology involves heating seawater to generate a vapor, which is passed through a hydrophobic membrane before condensing as fresh water. Fouling and wetting can lengthen production times for freshwater and shorten the lifespan of the membrane in the distillation process, thereby increasing the costs of freshwater production.
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