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Mineral Scaling Monitoring for reverse osmosis desalination via real-time membrane surface image analysis

An approach to real-time analysis of mineral scale formation on reverse osmosis (RO) membranes was developed using an ex-situ direct observation membrane monitor (MeMo). The purpose of such monitoring is to signal the onset of mineral scaling and provide quantitative information in order to appropriately initiate system cleaning/scale dissolution. The above is enabled by setting the MeMo operating conditions (cross flow velocity and transmembrane pressure) to closely match the conditions in the monitored membrane plant (e.g., in the tail RO element) in order to mimic the surface scaling processes taking place inside the monitored RO plant element. Mineral scale in the MeMo system is monitored by comparison of consecutive images of the membrane surface for the purpose of determining the evolution of the fractional coverage by mineral salt crystals and the corresponding crystal count in the monitored region. Through online image analysis, once crystal growth is determined to be above a prescribed threshold, one can then initiate any number of cleaning protocols. Through early detection of membrane scaling (i.e., before permeate flux decline is observed), enabled by the present monitoring approach, the system operator can prevent irreversible membrane damage and loss of system productivity.

Bartman A., Lyster E., Rallo R., Christofides PD., Cohen Y. Mineral Scaling Monitoring for reverse osmosis desalination via real-time membrane surface image analysis. Desalination, 273(1):64-71

  • DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2010.10.021
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