A membrane is a thin layer of semi-permeable material that separates substances when a driving force is applied across the membrane. Membrane processes are increasingly used for removal of bacteria, microorganisms, particulates, and natural organic material, which can impart color, ta
A membrane is a thin layer of semi-permeable material that separates substances when a driving force is applied across the membrane. Membrane processes are increasingly used for removal of bacteria, microorganisms, particulates, and natural organic material, which can impart color, tastes, and odors to water and react with disinfectants to form disinfection byproducts.
As advancements are made in membrane production and module design, capital and operating costs continue to decline. The membrane processes discussed here are microfiltration (MF), ultrafiltration (UF), nanofiltration (NF), and reverse osmosis (RO).
Microfiltration is loosely defined as a membrane separation process using membranes with a pore size of approximately 0.03 to 10 micronas (1 micron = 0.0001 millimeter), a molecular weight cut-off (MWCO) of greater than 1000,000 daltons and a relatively low feed water operating pressure of approximately 100 to 400 kPa (15 to 60psi) Materials removed by MF include sand, silt, clays, Giardia lamblia and Crypotosporidium cysts, algae, and some bacterial
species. MF is not an absolute barrier to viruses. However, when used in combination with disinfection, MF appears to control these microorganisms in water.
There is a growing emphasis on limiting the concentrations and number of chemicals that are applied during water treatment. By physically removing the pathogens, membrane filtration can significantly reduce chemical addition, such as chlorination. Another application for the technology is for removal of natural synthetic organic matter to reduce fouling potential. In its normal operation, MF removes little or no organic matter; however, when pretreatment is applied, increased removal of organic material can occur. MF can be used as a pretreatment to RO or NF to reduce fouling potential. Both RO and NF have
been traditionally employed to desalt or remove hardness from groundwater.