Ultrasonic time-domain reflectometry as a non-destructive instrumental visualization technique to monitor inorganic fouling and cleaning on reverse osmosis membranes
Fouling is readily acknowledged as one of the most critical problems limiting the wider application of membranes in liquid separation processes. A better understanding of fouling layer formation and its monitoring is needed in order to improve on existing cleaning techniques. The overall objective of this research was to develop a non-destructive, real-time, in situ visualization technique or device for fouling layer monitoring. Ultrasonic time-domain reflectometry (UTDR) was employed as a visualization technique to provide real-time characterization of the fouling layer. The fouling experiment was carried out with 2g/l calcium carbonate solution. Results confirmed that there is a correspondence between the flux decline behavior and the UTDR response from membranes in reverse osmosis (RO) modules. The ultrasonic technique could effectively detect fouling layer initiation and growth on the membrane in real-time at different axial velocities. In addition to the measurement of fouling, the ultrasonic technique was also successfully employed for monitoring membrane cleaning. The UTDR technique, due to its extremely powerful capabilities and its use in monitoring devices, can be of great significance in the membrane industry. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.