2015 Progress Report: Contaminant Removal Using Membrane Distillation for Sustainable Drinking Water Treatment

EPA Grant Number: R835333
Title: Contaminant Removal Using Membrane Distillation for Sustainable Drinking Water Treatment
Investigators: Childress, Amy E , Kolodziej, Edward P. , Park, Chanwoo
Institution: University of Nevada - Reno
Current Institution: University of Southern California
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: September 1, 2013 through February 15, 2017
Project Period Covered by this Report: September 1, 2014 through August 31,2015
Project Amount: $499,743
RFA: Research and Demonstration of Innovative Drinking Water Treatment Technologies in Small Systems (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Drinking Water , Water


The main objectives of the proposed investigation are to characterize the range of drinking water contaminants and contaminant classes that can be removed by membrane distillation (MD) and to develop and test a small-scale pilot MD system that can operate using waste heat for small water treatment systems. The steps toward achieving the goals of the proposed research are to perform bench-scale testing of MD to evaluate membrane performance for spiked feed waters; to evaluate potential small system test sites; to design and construct a modular, small pilot-scale MD system with heat exchanger; and to test the small pilot system using source water spiked with contaminants that have been found at small system test sites. 

Progress Summary:

Project progress to date is on track with the project objectives for the period. Task 1: MD Bench-Scale Testing is nearing completion, with broad spectrum contaminant removal evaluation completed for ions, metals, nitrogenous disinfection byproducts, and a suite of volatile and semi-volatile organics. Bench-scale testing of pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) will continue during the next year, along with continued data analysis to identify correlations between direct contact membrane distillation (DCMD) results and chemical properties. Task 2: Site Evaluation is nearing completion. Also, a survey of waste heat sources is underway on the USC campus and at locations near Reno, NV. Task 3: Source Water Analysis and Pre- and Post-Treatment System Design is underway including consideration of pre and post-treatment requirements; however, in keeping with the inherent minimalism of the MD process, the simplest, yet most efficient pre-treatment processes are being considered. Task 4: MD and Heat Exchanger Small Pilot-Scale System Design is ongoing, focusing on the selection of the final pilot system site to be located on the USC campus from a range of locations available with a waste heat source. Preliminary design options are being considered for the final pilot-system installation.

Future Activities:

In 2016, progress will continue on bench-scale experiments, the pilot system will be installed, and pilot system data will be collected and analyzed. A limited number of bench-scale DCMD studies will be conducted to validate existing results and confirm data predictions generated with existing data sets. Major tasks anticipated are continuing the data analysis process for the organic contaminant data that has already been collected, synthesizing the data into a predictive framework that links chemical properties and characteristics into a predictive framework, correlating DCMD results to chemical properties, and communicating project results as peer reviewed scientific publications. In particular, we are intensively exploring the relationship between volatility and rejection, as this relationship is critical for developing predictive capabilities for DCMD treatment performance, and would be especially important when using any impaired waters as source waters, including source water from wastewater reclamation and reuse. Additionally, we plan to collect and analyze samples from the pilot-scale system currently being constructed and tested to verify predictions of contaminant behavior.

The final site for the pilot system will be selected on the USC campus and the system will be installed during the next period. Once the pilot system is installed, experiments will be performed and the resulting data will be used for proof-of-concept and model validation. Collected survey data will be used with the MD model to evaluate differences in system performance with different types of waste heat sources. The results of this study will provide useful information to small water system engineers regarding the removal levels achievable for traditional and emerging contaminants with MD, and the impacts that waste heat source characteristics have on water production levels that are possible with waste heat driven MD.

Journal Articles on this Report : 1 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other project views: All 15 publications 2 publications in selected types All 2 journal articles
Type Citation Project Document Sources
Journal Article Rao G, Hiibel SR, Achilli A, Childress AE. Factors contributing to flux improvement in vacuum-enhanced direct contact membrane distillation. Desalination 2015;367:197-205. R835333 (2015)
R835333 (Final)
  • Full-text: ScienceDirect-Full Text HTML
  • Abstract: ScienceDirect-Abstract
  • Other: ScienceDirect-Full Text PDF
  • Supplemental Keywords:

    Chemicals, particulates, metals, heavy metals, organics, dissolved solids, sustainable development, clean technologies, innovative technology, renewable, water treatment

    Progress and Final Reports:

    Original Abstract
  • 2013 Progress Report
  • 2014 Progress Report
  • 2016 Progress Report
  • Final Report