(329g) Reverse Osmosis Desalination Research in the Undergraduate Laboratory
In many parts of world, desalination of saline waters is becoming a necessity for augmenting dwindling fresh water supplies. Reverse Osmosis (RO) is, at present, the leading technology for desalting saline waters, both from brackish water sources and seawater. Despite of its growing importance, RO water purification technologies remain largely underrepresented in the Chemical Engineering undergraduate curriculum. This presentation will describe a series of experiments designed and implemented for use in chemical engineering undergraduate laboratory courses. Two separate approaches will be described. The first involves a commercial mini Reverse Osmosis (RO) desalination system, consisting of a single RO membrane element, that was adapted to demonstrate the basic concepts of RO desalination. Using this system students carry out experiments with the objective of characterizing RO membrane performance, including membrane permeability, intrinsic salt rejection, and permeate flux. Based on experimental results, students developed mass transfer correlations to estimate the degree of concentration polarization in the membrane modules and develop process-based models for targeted water production. In the second approach, teams of upper division undergraduate students carry out research term projects using a novel automated pilot-scale RO desalination platform developed by the UCLA Water Technology Research Center. Team projects were designed to enable large data sets to be compiled using the pilot-scale system. A web-based data sharing capability was developed to enable students to access and contribute to the overall experimental database. Based on the experimental data, students develop models to describe the performance of RO membranes, evaluate specific energy consumption and propose approaches to energy minimization. Given the modularity of the M3 research platform different membrane modules can be used in the system that can be utilized for desalting of both brackish and seawater. Examples will be given of the type of experiments, data and data analysis that are possible, and samples of student project results and analysis will be described.