Forward osmosis (FO) has emerged as a viable technology to alleviate the global water crisis. The greatest challenge facing the application of FO technology is the lack of an ideal draw solution with high water flux and low reverse salt flux. Hence, the objective of this study was to enhance FO by lowering reverse salt flux and maintaining high water flux; the method involved adding small concentrations of Al2(SO4)3 to a MgCl2 draw solution. Results showed that 0.5 M MgCl2 mixed with 0.05 M of Al2(SO4)3 at pH 6.5 achieved a lower reverse salt flux (0.53 gMH) than that of pure MgCl2 (1.55 gMH) using an FO cellulose triacetate nonwoven (CTA-NW) membrane. This was due possibly to the flocculation of aluminum hydroxide in the mixed draw solution that constricted membrane pores, resulting in reduced salt diffusion. Moreover, average water fluxes of 4.09 and 1.74 L/m2-h (LMH) were achieved over 180 min, respectively, when brackish water (5 g/L) and sea water (35 g/L) were used as feed solutions. Furthermore, three types of membrane distillation (MD) membranes were selected for draw solution recovery; of these, a polytetrafluoroethylene membrane with a pore size of 0.45 μm proved to be the most effective in achieving a high salt rejection (99.90%) and high water flux (5.41 LMH) in a diluted draw solution.
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