Evidence of solution-diffusion-with-defects in an engineering-scale pressure retarded osmosis system

Zachary M. Binger, Galen O'Toole, Andrea Achilli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


An engineering-scale seawater reverse osmosis-pressure retarded osmosis (SWRO-PRO) system was designed and deployed to evaluate the energy recovery during seawater desalination through salinity gradient energy. Experimental data on energy recovery and consumption were collected from a PRO system composed of up to five 4040 spiral-wound membrane elements, utilizing freshwater and RO concentrate to drive permeation. During experimental testing, specific energy recoveries as high as 0.14 kW h/m3 were achieved; however, energy consumption due to pressure losses in the system reduced the net specific energy recovery to a maximum of −0.07 kW h/m3. A 100% increase in energy recovery or 50% decrease in energy consumption would be necessary to yield a positive net energy recovery. Also, a combined approach of simultaneously increasing energy recovery and decreasing energy consumption would be a more desirable path for SWRO-PRO to become an energy positive technology. Experimental data were then paired with modeling software utilizing a solution-diffusion-with-defects model to demonstrate the presence and extent of defects in the membrane structure that allow for pressure-driven pore flow. The solution-diffusion-with-defect model explains the lower than expected water permeability and salt rejection often seen in experimental PRO results. Integrating this model into future software will allow for more accurate simulation of larger systems and aid in investigations of PRO scale-up.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number119135
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
StatePublished - May 1 2021


  • Engineering-scale RO-PRO
  • Experimental PRO
  • Membrane defects
  • Pressure retarded osmosis
  • Seawater desalination
  • Solution-diffusion-with-defects model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Filtration and Separation


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