Mineral Scaling on Reverse Osmosis Membranes: Role of Mass, Orientation, and Crystallinity on Permeability


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Prior mineral scaling investigations mainly studied the effects of membrane surface properties rather than on the mineral properties and their impact on membrane permeability. In our study, mass, crystal growth orientation, and crystallinity of mineral precipitates on membranes, as well as their effects on membrane permeability have been investigated. Gypsum scaling tests on bare and bovine serum albumin (BSA)-conditioned membranes were conducted under different saturation indices. Results show that a longer scaling period was required for BSA-conditioned membranes to reach the same membrane permeate flux decline as bare membranes. Though the final reduced permeability was the same for both two membranes, the masses of the mineral precipitates on BSA-conditioned membranes were around two times more than those on bare membranes. Further mineral characterizations confirmed that different permeability decay rates of both types of the membrane were attributed to the differences in growth orientations rather than amounts of gypsum precipitates. Moreover, BSA-conditioned layers with high carboxylic density and specific molecular structure could stabilize bassanite and disrupt the oriented growth to inhibit the formation of needle-like gypsum crystals as observed on bare membranes, thus resulting in lower surface coverage with scales on membranes and alleviating the detrimental scaling effect on membrane permeability.
reverse osmosis, calcium sulfate, bovine serum albumin (BSA), bassanite stabilization, crystal growth
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