Mar 05, 2012

Grant Awarded for Research on Desalination Membrane Biofouling

American Water and Drexel University will partner for study

American Water Works Co. Inc. announced that it received a grant from the WateReuse Research Foundation to conduct a joint research project with Drexel University to measure and reduce biological fouling on membrane filters in desalination applications. The project is titled, "Application of the Bioluminescent Saltwater Assimilable Organic Carbon (AOC) Test as a Tool for Identifying and Reducing Reverse-Osmosis (RO) Membrane Fouling in Desalination."

American Water is partnering with Dr. Charles Haas, LD Betz Professor of Environmental Engineering and head of the department of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at Drexel University, to monitor the biological fouling potential using a recently developed tool for measuring readily biodegradable components in seawater. The desalination industry will benefit from improved membrane operations by monitoring and controlling biodegradable matter in the pretreatment process. RO membrane desalination is on the rise in the U.S., but the industry continues to be plagued by problems with membrane fouling, which increases the operation, maintenance and replacement costs of the membrane filters.

The total value of the project is $248,170, with $98,452 funded by the WateReuse Research Foundation and $149,718 in in-kind contribution from the research partners. American Water will directly receive $35,000 to pay for analytical costs, labor and other research costs.

"We are pleased that the WateReuse Research Foundation has provided the opportunity to apply our recently developed rapid test for measuring AOC in seawater," said Lauren Weinrich, senior research analyst for American Water's Innovation and Environmental Stewardship Department, and Ph.D. student in environmental engineering at Drexel University. "By reducing the rate of membrane replacement and avoiding increased cleaning costs, desalination facilities will be able to operate in a more sustainable manner."

The project team will consist of Haas as principal investigator and American Water's Dr. Mark LeChevallier, director of innovation and environmental stewardship, as co-principal investigator. Weinrich will serve as the project manager.