Size fractionation characterisation of removed organics in reverse osmosis concentrates by ferric chloride

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Reverse osmosis membrane separation is the leading method for manufacturing potable purified water. It also produces a concentrate stream, namely reverse osmosis concentrates (ROC), with 10–20% of the water, and almost all other compounds. One method for further treating this stream is by coagulation with ferric chloride. This study evaluates removed organics in ROC treated with ferric chloride. Fractionation with ultrafiltration membranes allows separation of organics based on a nominal molecular weight. A stirred cell system was applied for serial fractionation to classify organic compounds into six groups of <0.5 kDa, 0.5–1 kDa, 1–3 kDa, 3–5 kDa, 5–10 kDa and >10 kDa. The study found that raw ROC is rich in low molecular weight compounds (<1 kDa) with almost 50% of the organics. These compounds include soluble microbial products (SMPs) and smaller humic and fulvic acids as indicated by fluorescence scanning. Conversely, colour was mostly contributed by medium to large molecules of humic and fulvic acids (>0.5 kDa). Organics and colour were reduced in all molecular groups at an optimum treatment dose 1.48 mM FeCl3 and a pH of 5. However, ferric seemed to effectively remove colour in all size ranges while residual nitrogen was found mostly in the <1 kDa sizes. Further, the fluorescence indicated that larger humic and fulvic acids were removed with considerable SMPs remaining in the <0.5 kDa.

Keywords: ferric chloride coagulation, fractionation, reverse osmosis concentrates, water reclamation

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