Why is my membrane fouling or clogged too fast?

Posted by Max Water on 7/20/2023
Why is my membrane fouling or clogged too fast?
Why is my membrane fouling or clogged too fast?

Membrane fouling can significantly impair the effectiveness of filtration processes by causing particle build-up in the membrane's pores or surface. It's a major hurdle that restricts the widespread application of membrane technology, leading to severe flux decline and decreased water quality.

Different types of foulants, including colloidal, biological, organic, and scaling, contribute to membrane fouling, which can be reversible or irreversible based on particle attachment strength. Several factors can influence membrane fouling, such as hydrodynamics, operating conditions, membrane and material properties.

Indicators of membrane fouling include improper waste rejection or flux, transmembrane pressure, permeability, and resistance. To combat membrane fouling, physical, biological, or chemical cleaning methods can be employed, and membranes suitable for a particular operation can be selected.

Additionally, operational conditions during membrane filtration play a crucial role, with crossflow filtration being preferred over dead-end filtration to minimize fouling. In certain applications, air scour is employed to create turbulence at the membrane surface.

The issue with the membrane in some cases like is not due to a bad or defective membrane, as some buyers suggest.

The problem can arise from a few different reasons. In some cases, the membrane can get clogged within a few days due to incorrect setup or the wrong membrane model being used for the water chemistry. Other times, even with the correct membrane, it can still get clogged within 4 to 6 months.

The reasons for this could be as follows:

Reason 1:

The feed water could be from well water, and the hardness may be too high, which can cause fouling of membrane elements and reduce salt rejection.

Reason 2:

Iron may be present in the water, and this can be adsorbed using strong acid cation resin if the iron ion content is less than 0.05PPM. If the content is 0.05-2 PPM, an iron-manganese sand filter can be used for filtration, and if no sediment filter is included, it is better to buy a 3-stage iron-out system to prolong the iron filter life. The manganese sand filter can oxidize Fe2+ and filter at the same time, effectively preventing iron pollution from reverse osmosis. Iron fouling is generally challenging to clean, but it can be done using 1% Na2S2O4 at a temperature below 30°C and a PH range of 4-6.

Reason 3:

There may be a problem with the brine seal.

Reason 4:

Oxidizing substances in the feed water can cause the membrane element to be oxidized.

Reason 5:

The system recovery may be too high.

Reason 6:

The proper rejection ratio may not have been applied.

Reason 7:

To ensure optimal performance in maple syrup production, it is crucial to flush the membrane with the appropriate RO water after each use. Specifically, the recommended membrane model is XLP 4040 Part # 104303. It is important to note that using alternative models may not yield the desired results. It is highly recommended to follow the correct setup procedures to avoid any issues with sap production. Further information on this topic can be found in Q #20.

BW 4040
XLP 4040
ULP 4040

If there are system design problems, the membrane elements will need to be replaced every six months. We recommend using the ULP-4040MR-2 for high well water PPMs as salt rejection will be better. However, if there is a system design problem, the membrane life may not be significantly improved.

For fouling membranes, we recommend using part # 104190 liquid antiscalant and dispersant, which is formulated to inhibit scale and disperse colloidal particles in cellulose acetate and polyamide reverse osmosis. For inorganic scaling cleaning, HCL can be used, and for organic fouling cleaning, NaOH is recommended, especially for maple syrup extraction.