Mechanisms Involved in Osmotic Backwashing of Fouled Forward Osmosis (FO) Membranes

Document Type : VSI: Women in Membr.


1 School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering, University College Dublin

2 Institute for Infrastructure and Environment, School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh


Organic matter leads to one of the biggest problems in membranes: fouling. Developing efficient cleaning processes is therefore crucial. This study systematically examines how alginic acid fouling formed under different physical and chemical conditions affect osmotic backwashing cleaning efficiency in forward osmosis (FO). The fouling layer thickness before and after osmotic backwashing was measured by confocal laser scanning microscopy in order to assess cleaning efficiency, along with pure water flux (PWF) measurements. Osmotic backwashing was found to be very efficient. In the absence of Ca2+ in the feed solution, the alginate fouling thickness was fouling layer thickness down to Backwashing also became less effective when the initial membrane fouling flux increased using a draw solution (DS) of 4 M NaCl, with 91 μm of fouling remaining, despite a full
PWF restoration. The use of Ca2+ in the osmotic backwashing DS caused the fouling layer to expand and not be removed due to flux reversal and the interaction between the alginic acid layer and Ca2+. A reduction in the PWF recovery was obtained, showing the type of salt used for backwashing has a severe influence on cleaning efficiency.

Graphical Abstract

Mechanisms Involved in Osmotic Backwashing of Fouled Forward Osmosis (FO) Membranes


Main Subjects

Volume 6, Issue 2
April 2020
Pages 158-167
  • Receive Date: 19 December 2019
  • Revise Date: 11 March 2020
  • Accept Date: 13 March 2020
  • First Publish Date: 01 April 2020