Modeling water flux in forward osmosis: Implications for improved membrane design



Osmotically-driven membrane processes, such as forward osmosis and pressure retarded osmosis, operate on the principle of osmotic transport of water across a semipermeable membrane from a dilute feed solution into a concentrated draw solution. The major hindrance to permeate water flux performance is the prevalence of concentration polarization on both sides of the membrane. This article evaluates the external and internal boundary layers, which decrease the effective osmotic driving force. By modeling permeate flux performance, the role that feed and draw concentrations, membrane orientation, and membrane structural properties play in overall permeate flux performance are elucidated and linked to prevalence of external and internal concentration polarization. External concentration polarization is found to play a significant role in the reduction of driving force, though internal concentration polarization has a far more pronounced effect for the chosen system conditions. Reduction of internal concentration polarization by way of membrane modification was found to improve the predicted flux performance significantly, suggesting that alteration of membrane design will lead to improved performance of osmotically driven membrane processes. © 2007 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 2007