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Assessment of micellar solutions as draw solutions for forward osmosis

DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2014.09.009
  • Forward Osmosis
  • Fo-Mbr
  • Draw Solution
  • Surfactant Micelles
  • Osmotic Pressure
  • Reverse Transport
  • Regeneration


Abstract In this paper, the viability of using micellar draw solutions (DS) for Forward Osmosis (FO) is presented for the first time. Above the critical micelle concentration (CMC) and the Krafft temperature (Tk), the monomers in a surfactant solution aggregate to form micelles, resulting in a relatively constant osmotic pressure above the CMC. These properties can be useful for a FO system in order to maintain a constant water flux and to enable draw solution regeneration at low energy. Three cationic and two anionic surfactants were studied at different concentrations as potential draw solutions for FO applications. Both flat sheet and hollow fiber FO membranes were used in the study. The study revealed that the micellar solutions generated more stable flux compared to other inorganic DS; the hypothesis of a constant flux above the CMC was valid only for concentrations slightly above the CMC, and micellar solutions behaved similar to inorganic solutes at concentrations significantly higher than the CMC. It was shown that external concentration polarization (ECP) does not have a significant effect in micellar solutions just above the CMC. Furthermore, all surfactants demonstrated between 3 and 300 times less reverse transport compared to NaCl at similar concentrations. Finally, the surfactant solute could be regenerated with recoveries as high as between 95% and 99%. It was thus verified that micellar solutions are an attractive DS for application to Forward Osmosis and potentially in the forward osmosis membrane bioreactor (FO-MBR).

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