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Engineered Slippery Surface to Mitigate Gypsum Scaling in Membrane Distillation for Treatment of Hypersaline Industrial Wastewaters

Karanikola, Vasiliki, Boo, Chanhee, Rolf, Julianne, Elimelech, Menachem
Environmental science & technology 2018 v.52 no.24 pp. 14362-14370
coatings, contact angle, desalination, direct contact, distillation, energy, gypsum, hypersalinity, industrial wastewater, nanoparticles, power plants, shale gas, silica, thermoplastics
Membrane distillation (MD) is an emerging thermal desalination process, which can potentially treat high salinity industrial wastewaters, such as shale gas produced water and power plant blowdown. The performance of MD systems is hampered by inorganic scaling, particularly when treating hypersaline industrial wastewaters with high-scaling potential. In this study, we developed a scaling-resistant MD membrane with an engineered “slippery” surface for desalination of high-salinity industrial wastewaters at high water recovery. A polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) membrane was grafted with silica nanoparticles, followed by coating with fluoroalkylsilane to lower the membrane surface energy. Contact angle measurements revealed the “slippery” nature of the modified PVDF membrane. We evaluated the desalination performance of the surface-engineered PVDF membrane in direct contact membrane distillation using a synthetic wastewater with high gypsum scaling potential as well as a brine from a power plant blowdown. Results show that gypsum scaling is substantially delayed on the developed slippery surface. Compared to the pristine PVDF membrane, the modified PVDF membranes exhibited a stable MD performance with reduced scaling potential, demonstrating its potential to achieve high water recovery in treatment of high-salinity industrial wastewaters. We conclude with a discussion of the mechanism for gypsum scaling inhibition by the engineered slippery surface.