An advanced online monitoring approach to study the scaling behavior in direct contact membrane distillation

Jung Gil Lee, Yongsun Jang, Luca Fortunato, Sanghyun Jeong, Sangho Lee, TorOve Leiknes, NorEddine Ghaffour

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63 Scopus citations


One of the major challenges in membrane distillation (MD) desalination is scaling, mainly CaSO4 and CaCO3. In this study, in order to achieve a better understanding and establish a strategy for controlling scaling, a detailed investigation on the MD scaling was performed by using various analytical methods, especially an in-situ monitoring technique using an optical coherence tomography (OCT) to observe the cross-sectional view on the membrane surface during operation. Different concentrations of CaSO4, CaCO3, as well as NaCl were tested separately and in different mixed feed solutions. Results showed that when CaSO4 alone was employed in the feed solution, the mean permeate flux (MPF) has significantly dropped at lower volume concentration factor (VCF) compared to other feed solutions and this critical point was observed to be influenced by the solubility changes of CaSO4 resulting from the various inlet feed temperatures. Although the inlet feed and permeate flow rates could contribute to the initial MPF value, the VCF, which showed a sharp MPF decline, was not affected. It was clearly observed that the scaling on the membrane surface due to crystal growth in the bulk and the deposition of aggregated crystals on the membrane surface abruptly appeared close to the critical point of VCF by using OCT observation in a real time. On the other hand, NaCl + CaSO4 mixed feed solution resulted in a linear MPF decline as VCF increases and delayed the critical point to higher VCF values. In addition, CaCO3 alone in feed solution did not affect the scaling, however, when CaSO4 was added to CaCO3, the initial MPF decline and VCF met the critical point earlier. In summary, calcium scaling crystal formed at different conditions influenced the filtration dynamics and MD performances.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)50-60
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
StatePublished - Oct 12 2017

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: The research reported in this paper was supported by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), SaudiArabia. The authors acknowledge help, assistance and support from the Water Desalination and Reuse Center (WDRC) staff. This research was also supported by a grant (Code 17IFIP-B065893-05) from Industrial Facilities & Infrastructure Research Program funded by Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport of Korean government.


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