Membrane Distillation Provides a Dual Barrier for Coronavirus and Bacteriophage Removal

Mukta Hardikar, Luisa A. Ikner, Varinia Felix, Luke K. Presson, Andrew B. Rabe, Kerri L. Hickenbottom, Andrea Achilli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The persistence of pathogenic microorganisms in treated wastewater effluent makes disinfection crucial to achieve wastewater reuse. Membrane processes such as ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis (RO) have shown promising results for virus and other contaminant removal from treated wastewater effluents for reuse application. However, RO produces a concentrate stream which contains high concentrations of pathogens and contaminants that often requires treatment and volume reduction before disposal. Membrane distillation (MD) is a treatment process that can reduce RO concentrate volume while augmenting the potable water supply. MD is also a dual barrier approach for virus removal as it operates at a high temperature and permeates only the vapor phase through the membrane interface. The effects of temperature on viable virus concentration and membrane rejection of viruses in MD are investigated in this study using two nonenveloped phages frequently used as enteric virus surrogates (MS2 and PhiX174) and an enveloped pathogenic virus (HCoV-229E). At typical MD operating temperatures (greater than 65 °C), viable concentrations of all three viruses were reduced by thermal inactivation by more than 6-log10 for MS2 and PhiX174 and more than 3-log10 for HCoV-229E. Also, membrane rejection was greater than 6-log10 for MS2 and PhiX174 and greater than 2.5-log10 for HCoV-229E.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)713-718
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology Letters
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 10 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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