Adsorption of phosphonate antiscalant from reverse osmosis membrane concentrate onto granular ferric hydroxide

Luciaan Boels*, Karel J. Keesman, Geert Jan Witkamp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Adsorptive removal of antiscalants offers a promising way to improve current reverse osmosis (RO) concentrate treatment processes and enables the reuse of the antiscalant in the RO desalination process. This work investigates the adsorption and desorption of the phosphonate antiscalant nitrilotris(methylenephosphonic acid) (NTMP) from RO membrane concentrate onto granular ferric hydroxide (GFH), a material that consists predominantly of akaganéite. The kinetics of the adsorption of NTMP onto GFH was predicted fairly well with two models that consider either combined film-pore or combined film-surface diffusion as the main mechanism for mass transport. It is also demonstrated that NTMP is preferentially adsorbed over sulfate by GFH at pH 7.85. The presence of calcium causes a transformation in the equilibrium adsorption isotherm from a Langmuir type to a Freundlich type with much higher adsorption capacities. Furthermore, calcium also increases the rate of adsorption substantially. GFH is reusable after regeneration with sodium hydroxide solution, indicating that NTMP can be potentially recovered from the RO concentrate. This work shows that GFH is a promising adsorbent for the removal and recovery of NTMP antiscalant from RO membrane concentrates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9638-9645
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 4 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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