Evaluating the Efficiency of Different Microfiltration and Ultrafiltration Membranes Used as Pre-treatment for Reverse Osmosis Desalination of Red Sea Water

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


With the increase in population density throughout the world and the growing water demand, innovative methods of providing safe drinking water are of a very high priority. In 2002, the United Nations stated in their millennium declaration that one of their priority goals was “To reduce by half, by the year 2015, the proportion of people who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water” [1]. This goal was set with high standards and requires a great deal of water treatment related research in the coming years. Since 1990’s, drinking water treatment via membrane filtration has been widely accepted as a feasible alternative to conventional drinking water treatment. Nowadays, membrane processes are used for separation applications in many industrial applications. Over the past two decades, there has been a rapid growth in the use of low-pressure membrane for drinking water production. These membrane systems are increasingly being accepted as feasible and sustainable technologies for drinking water treatment. Like any innovative process, it has limitations; the primary limitation is membrane fouling, a phenomenon of particles accumulation on the membrane surface and inside its pores. It has the ability to reduce the permeate flux so that higher pumping intensity is required to maintain a consistent volume of product and increasing the cleaning frequency. This project has investigated the rate of reduction in the flux and the increase of pumping intensity using different membranes. Low pressure membranes with three different pore sizes (0.1μm MF, 100kDa UF, and 50kDa UF) have been tested. Eight different filtration configurations have been applied to the membranes including the variation of coagulant (FeCl3) addition aiming mitigation fouling impact in order to maintain consistent permeate flux, while monitoring several water quality parameters before and after treatment such as turbidity, SDI15, total organic carbon (TOC) and particle size distribution. Collectively, results showed that all eight configurations provided permeate with excellent water quality to be fed to reverse osmosis membrane. However, using the 0.1 μm and 100kDa membranes with 1 mg/l FeCl3 concentration, respectively, steadier fluxes correspond to less increment of pumping intensity and better water quality was achieved.
Date of AwardJul 2011
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorNorEddine Ghaffour (Supervisor)

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