Fouling-Resistant Membranes for Treating Concentrated Brines for Water Reuse in Advanced Energy Systems


Illustration showing the MD process. Water<br/>evaporates in the feed and is transported<br/>through the hydrophobic membrane leaving<br/>the non-volatile solutes behind and generating<br/>high quality product
Illustration showing the MD process. Water
evaporates in the feed and is transported
through the hydrophobic membrane leaving
the non-volatile solutes behind and generating
high quality product
Research Triangle Institute (RTI)
Website:  Research Triangle Institute
Award Number:  FE0024074
Project Duration:  10/01/2014 – 09/30/2017
Total Award Value:  $625,904
DOE Share:  $500,000
Performer Share:  $125,904
Technology Area:  Plant Optimization Technologies
Key Technology:  Water Management R&D
Location:  Research Triangle Park, North Carolina

Project Description

The project objective is to demonstrate the efficacy of membrane distillation (MD) as a cost-savings technology to treat concentrated brines (such as, but not limited to, produced waters generated from fossil fuel extraction) that have high levels of total dissolved solids (TDS) for beneficial water reuse in power production and other industrial operations as well as agricultural and municipal water uses. In addition, a novel fouling-resistant nanocomposite membrane will be developed to reduce the need for chemicals to address membrane scaling due to the precipitation of divalent ions in high-TDS waters and improve overall MD performance via an electrically conductive membrane distillation process (ECMD). This anti-fouling membrane technology platform is based on incorporating carbon nanotubes (CNTs) into the surface layer of existing, commercially available MD membranes. The CNTs confer electrical conductivity to the membrane surface so that an electrical potential can be applied to remove and prevent membrane scaling and fouling.

Project Benefits

Demonstration of a bench-scale feasibility of a low-cost, novel water treatment process using ECMD process for the reuse of water contained in concentrated brines generated during fossil fuel extraction/processing may lead to (1) at least 50% reuse of treated effluent for produced water at 180,000 mg/L, (2) 80% reduction in water management costs when compared to deep well injection costs, (3) reduced costs associated with water treatment/disposal by 35% to > 90%, and (4) improvement in membrane fouling relative to existing membranes.

Contact Information

Federal Project Manager 
Richard Dunst:
Technology Manager 
Briggs White:
Principal Investigator 
Zachary Hendren:

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