Waste-to-Resource: Novel Membrane Systems for Safe and Sustainable Brine Management

EPA Grant Number: FP917464
Title: Waste-to-Resource: Novel Membrane Systems for Safe and Sustainable Brine Management
Investigators: Hickenbottom, Kerri Leah
Institution: Colorado School of Mines
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: August 1, 2012 through July 31, 2015
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Civil/Environmental Engineering , Academic Fellowships


Advanced membrane separation processes such as membrane distillation (MD) and electrodialysis (ED) will be used to facilitate recovery of unconventional impaired water resources and enable tailored water reuse, in which water of different types can be reused beneficially for different applications. ED and MD have the potential to operate at or above saturation concentrations, but the mechanisms of heat and mass transport and membrane fouling and scaling (and their reversibility) must be further explored. To address the limitations of ED and MD, this project will elucidate scaling and fouling mechanisms and optimize system performance of these processes and their hybrids.


A systems-based approach will be used to evaluate how ED/ED reversal (EDR) and MD are integrated in decentralized water treatment systems, and will address how the economics and environmental implications of decentralized water treatment systems affect the broader public. The performance of ED/EDR and MD will be optimized in terms of water flux, solute rejection, energy consumption and recovery, and long-term operation through a methodical bench- and laboratory-scale investigation with increasing source water complexities and varying operating conditions. Hybrid and individual processes will be evaluated to treat sitespecific source waters for beneficial uses. Once these processes are optimized, pilot-scale systems will be deployed at test-bed facilities to evaluate the economics and performance of these processes on a larger scale. Novel flux restoration techniques will be implemented to mitigate membrane scaling and sustain high water fluxes.

Expected Results:

Decentralized waste-to-reuse systems will be optimized to maximize resource and energy recovery and minimize chemicals and energy use. This research will enhance fundamental knowledge on simultaneous heat and mass transport through membranes, lower process costs, and further address the range of treatment of hybrid and individual membrane processes. Results from the life cycle and cost assessment as well as the design program will have an impact on promoting the use of technologies in new applications.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection
This research can aid in transforming how water and other natural resources are managed effectively. Discharge of high salinity waters, which can lead to ecosystem damage, surface and ground water contamination and land consumption, will be mitigated with the proposed systems. Optimization of these processes ultimately will aid in recovering valuable mineral resources for beneficial use and in supplying a low-cost, safe and sustainable water source that broadly is accessible to developed and advancing countries.

Supplemental Keywords:

membrane processes, water reuse, resource recovery

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2013
  • 2014
  • Final