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Membrane separation. Configuration.Modules.Transport.Fouling. FLAT - the active layer is a flat - synthesised as a continuous layer - low surface area per volume

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Membrane separation

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Membrane separation l.jpg

Membrane separation


Configuration l.jpg


- the active layer is a flat

- synthesised as a continuous layer

- low surface area per volume

- used in flate-and-plate module and spiral-wound module


- usually active layer is inside

- the permeate crosses the membrane layer to the outside (feed inside)

- high surface per volume

- several lenghts and diameters (>10mm)


Slide3 l.jpg

Membrane module – the unit into which the membrane’s area is packed.

  • Protects membranes against mechanical damage

  • Permits get high area in small volume

    Requirements for membrane:

  • High selectivity separation components

  • High permeability with respects to solvent

    M.M. have to be keep:

  • High productivity of process,

  • Leaktighness between stream of permeate and retentate in the

    high ratio of membrane surface to module’s volume,

  • Facility of cleaning and sterilization,

  • Low costs by itself

  • High resistance membrane on agressive chemical,

    physical & biological factors.

Simple module l.jpg

The module is the central part of membrane instalation.

Feed composition and a flow rate inside the module will change as a function of distance.

Permeate stream is the fraction of the feed stream of the feed stream which passes through the membrane.

Retentate stream is the fraction retained on the membrane.


Membrane modules l.jpg

Plate-and-frame module

Spiral-wound module

Tubular module

Capillary module

Hollow-fiber module


The choice of module configuration l.jpg

The choice of module configuration

Based on economic considerations

  • Type of separation problem

  • Ease of cleaning

  • Ease of maintenance

  • Ease of operations

  • Compactness of the system

  • Scale

  • Possibility of membrane replacement

Plate and frame module l.jpg


The number of sets needed for a given membrane area furnished with sealing

ring and two end plates then builds up to a plate-and-framestack

Plate and frame module8 l.jpg

Plate-and-frame module

Schematic flow path in plate-and-frame module

In order to reduce channeling- a tendency a flow along a fixed pathway and to establish as uniform flow distribution so-called ‘stop-discs’

Tortous-path plate

Is used to improve mass transfer,

to reduce concentration polarisation by applying a proper spacer material.

Plate and frame module9 l.jpg


High allowable work pressure

(high viscosity liquids)

Easy to clean

Easy to replace membranes


Low membrane area per volume

(100-400 m2/m3)

Plate-and-frame module

Electrodialysis, pervaporation, membrane destillation

Spiral wound module l.jpg


Membrane and permeate-side

spacer material are glued

along three edges build a membrane envelope.

The feed flows axial through the cylindrical module

parallel along the central pipe whereas the permeate

flows radially toward the central pipe.

Pressure vessel containig 3 spiral-wound modules arranged in series

Spiral wound module11 l.jpg


-High packing density


- Easy and inexpensive to adjust hydronomics by changing feed spacer thickness to overcome conc. polarization and fouling

- Low relative costs


Difficult to cleaning and sterilization

High pressure drop


- Use only for pure medium

Spiral-wound module

Tubular modules l.jpg


Tubular module l.jpg

Tubular module

Cross section of monolithic ceramic module

Schematic drawing of tubular module

The feed solution always flows through the centre of the tubes while the permeate flows through supporting tube into the module housing .

Tubular module14 l.jpg


Resistance for fouling

Easy to cleaning


Low packing density (300m2/m3)


Tubular module

Reverse osmosis, ultrafiltration

Capillary module l.jpg

Capillary module

Capillary module consists of a large numbers of capillaries assembled together in a module.

The free ends of the capillaries are potted agents such as epoxy resins, polyurethans.

Capillary module16 l.jpg


Two types of module arrangements can bedistinguised

The choice between the two concepts is mainly based on the application where the parameters such a pressure,

pressure drop, type of membrane available etc. are important.

Depending on the concept chosen, asymmetric capillaries are used with their skin on the outside or inside

Hollow fiber module l.jpg


The difference – dimmensions of the tubes, but module concepts are the same.

The hollow-fiber module – highest packing density 30000m2/m3.

A perforated central pipe is located in the center of the module through which the feed solution enters.

Hollow fiber module18 l.jpg

Hollow-fiber module

Advantageous to use the ‘inside-out’ type to avoid increase in permeate

pressure within the fibers and it’s thin selective top-layer is better protected,

whereas a higher membrane area can be achieved with the ‘outside-in’ concept.

Hollow fiber module19 l.jpg


High packing density

500-9000 m2/m3

Low relative costs


Poor resistance of fouling

Difficult to clean

Difficult to change the membrane

Hollow-fiber module

Microfiltration, ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis, pervaporation,

liquid membranes and the membrane cofactors where the boundary layer resistance

may become very important as well.

Comparison of module configurations l.jpg

Comparison of module configurations

Membrane fouling l.jpg

Membrane fouling

Polarisation phenomena are reversible processes, but in practise, a continuous decline in flux decline can often be observed.

Flux as a function of time. Both concentration polarization

and fouling can be distinguished

Membrane fouling22 l.jpg

The (ir)reversible deposition of retained particles, colloids, emulsions, suspensions, macromolecules, salts etc. on or in the membrane.

The includes adsorption, pore blocking, precipitation and cake formation. Occurs in microfiltration and ultrafiltration.

Pressure driven processes, type of separation and the type of membrane used to determine the extent of fouling.





ionic strenght,

specific interactions (hydrogen bonding, dipole-dipole interactions)

Membrane fouling

Membrane fouling23 l.jpg

Membrane fouling

Kozany – Carman relationship:


ds– the ‘diameter’ of

the solute particle


Total cake layer resistance (Rc)

 - porosity of cake layer

ms – the mass of the cake



s – the density of the solute

rc – specific resistance of the cake

lc – cake thickness

A – the membrane area

The thickness of the layer depends on the type of solute

and especially on operating conditions and time.

The growing layer of accumulates results in a continuous flux decline.

Membrane fouling24 l.jpg

Membrane fouling

Rc the cake layer resistance can be obtained from the mass balance.

In case of complete solute rejection:

R = 100%

The flux can be written:


Jw – pure water flux

Membrane fouling25 l.jpg

Membrane fouling



Reciprocal flux is indeed linearly related to the permeate volume V for various concentrations (Cb)

and applied pressures (P) in an unstirred dead-end filtration experiment with BSA as solute.

Reciprocal flux as a function of the permeate volume for different concentrations (1) and applied pressures (2)

Methods to reduce fouling l.jpg

Methods to reduce fouling

  • Pretreatment of the feed solution

    - heat treatment

    - pH adjustment

    - addition of complexing agents (EDTA etc.)

    - chlorination

    - adsorption onto active carbon

    - chemical clarification

    - premicrofiltration

    - preultrafiltration

  • Membrane properties

  • Module & process conditions

  • Cleaning

    - hydraulic cleaning ( back-flushing )

    - mechanical cleaning

    - chemical cleaning

    - electric cleaning

Membrane fouling27 l.jpg

Membrane fouling

Alternate pressuring and depressuring and by changing the flow direction at a given frequency.

After a given period of time, the feed pressure is released and the direction of the permeate reversed from the permeate side to the feed side in order to remove the fouling layer within the membrane or at the membrane surface.

Flux versus time behaviour in a given microfiltration

process with and without back-flushing

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