Photo: Dr. Bianca Chaves works at UF/RO system in WEST Center.
Awarded in early 2020, two $120K research grants from Phoenix Water will support Environmental Engineering research at WEST Center. These two funded projects aim to 1) explore reverse osmosis (RO) pretreatment strategies in water reuse and 2) develop a hybrid bio-membrane system for near zero liquid discharge (ZLD) in inland water reuse applications.
In one study, led by Dr. Andrea Achilli, researchers will tackle the problem of reverse osmosis (RO) fouling in water reuse. As stated by Dr. Achilli:
“As demand for potable water increases, wastewater reuse has been added as a reliable source for high-quality water production and RO has emerged as one of the standard treatment steps to deliver potable-quality water. (However) colloidal dissolved organic carbon may cause fouling and therefore may decrease RO productivity and permeate water quality.”
To increase the quality of UF permeate (RO feed) and therefore minimize RO fouling, researchers will investigate inline coagulation-ultrafiltration (UF) as a RO pre-treatment process. Bench scale research will be translated to pilot-scale using the WEST Center in-house 15,000 gallon per day fully automated UF/RO system. This approach will allow researchers to identify the variables important to maximizing water production and quality while minimizing energy and material consumption in the UF/RO system. The study will be coordinated by the postdoc Dr. Bianca Chaves, support several undergrads and grad students from U of A, and give opportunities for summer internships to local engineering students through Phoenix Water.
In the second study, headed by PI Dr. Kerri Hickenbottom, concentrate from the WEST Center UF/RO treatment train will be further treated by a hybrid bio-membrane system to stabilize organics and achieve near zero liquid discharge (ZLD). As stated by Dr. Hickenbottom:
“Typical water recovery from the industry standard treatment train is approximately 80%—thus generating a relatively large waste stream containing high concentrations of organic and inorganic compounds, including pharmaceuticals and personal care products and sparingly soluble salts that need to be appropriately managed. Management of the RO concentrate stream is especially pressing in inland applications as the currently most common management strategies (surface water discharge, discharge to the wastewater collection system, deep well injection, evaporation ponds, land application, etc.) have an uncertain long-term outlook. Thus, there is an unmet need and multiple incentives to treat water reuse RO concentrate to minimize environmental consequences, disposal costs, and augment limited freshwater supplies.”
Dr. Hickenbottom’s project aims to realize near ZLD for inland water reuse applications by coupling biologically activated filtration (BAF) with membrane distillation (MD) to recover additional water from RO concentrate and reduce concentrate volume. Membrane distillation, specifically, has the advantage of being able to treat highly concentrated feed streams without being limited by maximum achievable operating pressures.
For more information about these projects and similar research, contact Dr. Achilli or Dr. Hickenbottom.
Dr. Andrea Achilli: firstname.lastname@example.org / 520-621-6044
Dr. Kerri Hickenbottom: email@example.com / 520-626-9323