A Pilot Study of an Electromagnetic Field for Control of Reverse Osmosis Membrane Fouling and Scaling During Brackish Groundwater Desalination

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Abstract: This study investigated the effects of an electromagnetic field (EMF) on control of membrane
fouling and scaling during desalination of brackish groundwater using a pilot reverse osmosis (RO)
skid. The groundwater was primarily CaSO
4 type with a total dissolved solids concentration of
5850 mg
/L and hardness of 2500 mg/L as CaCO3. Two EMF devices were installed in the pipeline
before a cartridge filter and in the RO feed inlet to induce an electric signal of
±150 kHz to the
groundwater. The e
ffects of EMF on membrane scaling were evaluated under accelerated conditions,
i.e., without pH adjustment and addition of antiscalant. Two-phase experiments were conducted:
Phase 1 (376 h) with the EMF devices turned on after 150 h baseline operation; and Phase 2 (753 h)
with the EMF devices turned on from the beginning of testing. The EMF significantly reduced
membrane scaling and improved RO performance by 38.3% and 14.3% in terms of normalized water
permeability decline rate after 150 h and 370 h operation, respectively. Membrane autopsy results
indicated that the fouling layer formed under the influence of EMF was loose with a low density and
was easily removed by hydraulic flushing


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