Prediction of particulate fouling in full-scale reverse osmosis plants using the modified fouling index – ultrafiltration (MFI-UF) method

Mohanad Abunada, Nirajan Dhakal, Raffay Gulrez, Pamela Ajok, Yuke Li, Almotasembellah Abushaban, Herman Smit, David Moed, NorEddine Ghaffour, Jan C. Schippers, Maria D. Kennedy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This study aims at applying and verifying the MFI-UF method to predict particulate fouling in RO plants. Two full-scale RO plants treating surface water, with average capacity of 800–2000 m3/h, were studied. Firstly, the MFI-UF of RO feed and concentrate was measured using 5–100 kDa membranes at same flux applied in the RO plants (20–26 L/m2.h). Subsequently, the particle disposition factor (Ω) was calculated to simulate particle deposition in RO cross-flow filtration. Finally, particulate fouling rates were predicted based on MFI-UF and Ω, and compared with the actual fouling rates in the plants. For plant A, the results showed that the fouling rates predicted using MFI-UF measured with 100 kDa membrane have the best agreement with the actual fouling (with 3–11 % deviation). For plant B, the fouling rates predicted based on both 10 and 100 kDa membranes agree well with the actual fouling (with 2 % and 15 % deviation, respectively). However, the fouling predicted based on 5 kDa membrane is considerably overestimated for both plants, which is attributed to the effect of the low surface porosity of 5 kDa membrane. More widespread applications of MFI-UF in full-scale RO plants are required to demonstrate the most suitable MFI-UF membranes for fouling prediction.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)116478
StatePublished - Feb 22 2023

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2023-03-03
Acknowledgements: The authors would like to gratefully acknowledge PWN and EVIDES water treatment companies in the Netherlands for their cooperation and facilitation to collect samples and operation data from their RO plants. The authors would like also to thank Emmanuelle Prest for providing the AOC data of PWN plant, Vincent Toussaint for providing the operational data of Evides plant, and Nasser Mangal for his support in SI calculation.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Mechanical Engineering


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