Sustainable operation of membrane distillation for enhancement of mineral recovery from hypersaline solutions

Kerri L. Hickenbottom, Tzahi Y. Cath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations


Membrane distillation (MD) is an emerging desalination technology that has the ability to desalinate hypersaline brines, including those used in mineral production. MD can potentially replace evaporation ponds in conventional mineral production processes because of its small footprint and ability to utilize industrial low-grade heat. In the current study MD was investigated for sustained water recovery and concentration of hypersaline brines. Direct contact MD (DCMD) experiments were performed with water from the Great Salt Lake (>150,000mg/L total dissolved solids) as the feed stream and deionized water as the distillate stream. DCMD was able to concentrate the feed solution to twice its original concentration, achieving close to complete inorganic salt rejection. During experiments water flux declined to 80% of its initial value (from 11 to 2Lm-2h-1). Real-time microscopy revealed that precipitation of salts on the membrane surface was the main contributor to the decline in water flux. The application of novel scale-mitigation techniques was highly effective in preventing scale formation on membrane surfaces, sustaining high water flux and salt rejection, and eliminating chemical consumption used for membrane cleaning. MD was compared to natural evaporation and was found to potentially replace 4047m2 (1acre) of evaporation ponds with approximately 24m2 (259ft2) of membrane area and to be nearly 170 times faster in concentrating hypersaline brines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)426-435
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
StatePublished - Mar 15 2014


  • Desalination
  • Evaporation pond
  • Hypersaline brine
  • Membrane cleaning
  • Membrane distillation
  • Scaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Filtration and Separation


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