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Comment Water Treatment

‘Switchable solvent’ technology is a promising development for advancing forward osmosis

By Gerald Ondrey |

Forward osmosis (FO), whereby a concentrated salt solution is used to “draw” water through a membrane from a less-concentrated salt solution (via osmotic pressure), has the advantage over reverse osmosis (RO) in that high pressures, with the associated pumps and energy requirements, are avoided. In addition, FO can be applied for concentrating brine solutions of much higher concentration (up to 25 wt.%) than seawater — such brines, as are produced in hydraulic fracturing, cannot be treated by RO, says professor Philip Jessop, Dept. of Chemistry, Queen’s University (Kingston, Ont., Canada; www.chem.queensu.ca). However, the main disadvantage with FO has been the cost-intensive step needed to regenerate the draw solution after it has been diluted. Now, a clever method — using a switchable solvent discovered and patented by Jessop — is being developed by Forward Water Technologies (FWT; www.forwardwater.com), the university’s spinoff company aiming to commercialize the technology, in cooperation with GreenCentre Canada (both Kingston, Ont.; www.greencentrecanada.com). Normally, diluted draw solution has to be regenerated by energy-intensive methods, such as evaporation or a temperature increase, or by a capital-intensive…
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