Seawater-driven forward osmosis for pre-concentrating nutrients in digested sludge centrate
Seawater-driven forward osmosis to enrich nutrients from sludge centrate and reduce membrane fouling is demonstrated. Due to enrichment and pH increase in the feed solution, without appropriate control measure, nutrient precipitation can occur directly on the membrane surface causing severe membrane fouling and reducing nutrient enrichment efficiency. Indeed without agitating the feed, there was less precipitation on the membrane surface, compared to with agitation. In addition, increase in the membrane area over permeate volume ratio significantly reduced the filtration time and nutrient precipitation. A novel technique to maintain the draw solution (DS) at an acidic condition was developed to improve nutrient enrichment and reduce membrane fouling. By using this technique and a high membrane surface to permeate volume ratio, nutrient enrichment similar to the theoretical efficiency was successfully demonstrated. Our technique reduced the filtration time to achieve 70% water recovery by over 90% (compared to unbuffered seawater as the DS, small membrane area, and feed agitation), as a result of significantly less membrane fouling. The amount of phosphorus precipitate on the membrane surface decreased by more than 10 times. The enrichment of ammonia and phosphorus as a function of water recovery was similar to the theoretical calculation, indicating negligible nutrient loss due to precipitation.