Novel Magnetic Resonance Measurements of Fouling in Operating Spiral Wound Reverse Osmosis Membrane Modules

Nicholas W. Bristow, Sarah J. Vogt, Szilard Bucs, Johannes S. Vrouwenvelder, Michael L. Johns, Einar O. Fridjonsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


A novel magnetic resonance measurement (MRM) protocol for non-invasive monitoring of fouling in spiral wound reverse osmosis (SWRO) membrane modules is demonstrated. Sodium alginate was used to progressively foul a commercial SWRO membrane at industrially relevant operating conditions in a circulating flow loop. The MRM protocol showcased the following: (i) earlier, more sensitive detection and quantification of fouling in the membrane module compared to feed-channel pressure drop. This was achieved using appropriate detection of the total nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) signal. (ii) 2D cross-sectional imaging of the location of the accumulated foulant material; this was preferentially located adjacent to the membrane spacer sheet nodes, which was subsequently confirmed by a module autopsy. This image contrast, which could also readily differentiate the membrane, feed spacer and permeate spacer regions, was realised based on differences in the NMR relaxation parameter, T2,eff. (iii) High frequency acquisition of 2D cross-sectional velocity images of the module revealing very localised flow channelling in response to gradual foulant accumulation which impacted significantly on the flow pattern within the central permeate tube. Collectively this NMR/MRI measurement protocol provides a powerful analysis tool for the evolution of fouling in such complex modules, thus ultimately enabling more informed module design.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117006
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2021-03-09
Acknowledgements: The authors acknowledge the facilities and scientific and technical assistance of the National Imaging Facility, a National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) capability, at the Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis, The University of Western Australia. Funding from the Australian Research Council and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) are gratefully acknowledged.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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