Reverse osmosis (RO)-based desalination and advanced water purification facilities have inherent challenges associated with concentrate management and disposal. Although enhanced permeate recovery and concentrate minimization are desired, membrane scaling due to inorganic constituents, such as silica, calcium, phosphate, and iron, hinders the process. To solve this problem, a new diatom-based photobiological process has been developed to remove these scaling constituents by biological uptake and precipitation. In this study, RO concentrate samples were collected from a full-scale advanced water reclamation facility in California and were treated in 3.8 and 57 L photobioreactors inoculated with a brackish water diatom Pseudostaurosira trainorii PEWL001 using light-emitting diode bulbs or natural sunlight as a light source. The photobiological treatment removed 95% of reactive silica and 64% of calcium and enabled additional water recovery using a secondary RO at a recovery rate up to 66%. This represents 95% overall recovery, including 85% recovery in the primary RO unit. In addition to the scaling constituents, the photobiological treatment removed 12 pharmaceuticals and personal care products, as well as N-nitrosodimethylamine, from RO concentrate samples primarily via photolysis. This novel approach has a strong potential for application to brackish water desalination and advanced water purification in arid and semiarid areas.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry