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Composites that can enhance forward osmosis

By Paul Grad |

Researchers from the Dept. of Chemical Engineering, Monash University (Clayton, Victoria, Australia; www.monash.edu), have reported on a new composite polymer hydrogel with light-absorbing particles incorporated within it, that can be used as draw agents in the forward osmosis (FO) process of desalination. The researchers, led by professor Huanting Wang, aimed to develop new “draw agents” capable of meeting the following requirements: low-energy consumption for regeneration, complete separation from the fresh water product, low toxicity and chemical inertness with polymeric membranes. They have previously shown that hydrogel particles are able to draw pure water through FO membranes. The water can then be removed by pressure or heating, or both. The incorporation of light-absorbing particles leads to natural, enhanced heating and dewatering of the composites, as compared with pure hydrogels under irradiation with light. Another advantage of composite polymer hydrogels is that they exhibit higher swelling ratios, thus producing higher water fluxes in the FO process. With increasing loading of carbon particles, the water recovery rates from the swollen composite hydrogels are greatly enhanced. The hydrogels are synthesized…
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