Mineral Scale Prevention on Electrically Conducting Membrane Distillation Membranes Using Induced Electrophoretic Mixing

Craig Turchi, Unnati Rao, Arpita Iddya, Bongyeon Jung, Chia Khor, Zachary Hendren, Tzahi Cath, Eric Hoek, Guy Ramon, David Jassby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus Citations


The growth of mineral crystals on surfaces is a challenge across multiple industrial processes. Membrane-based desalination processes, in particular, are plagued by crystal growth (known as scaling), which restricts the flow of water through the membrane, can cause membrane wetting in membrane distillation, and can lead to the physical destruction of the membrane material. Scaling occurs when supersaturated conditions develop along the membrane surface due to the passage of water through the membrane, a process known as concentration polarization. To reduce scaling, concentration polarization is minimized by encouraging turbulent conditions and by reducing the amount of water recovered from the saline feed. In addition, antiscaling chemicals can be used to reduce the availability of cations. Here, we report on an energy-efficient electrophoretic mixing method capable of nearly eliminating CaSO4 and silicate scaling on electrically conducting membrane distillation (ECMD) membranes. The ECMD membrane material is composed of a percolating layer of carbon nanotubes deposited on porous polypropylene support and cross-linked by poly(vinyl alcohol). The application of low alternating potentials (2 Vpp,1Hz) had a dramatic impact on scale formation, with the impact highly dependent on the frequency of the applied signal, and in the case of silicate, on the pH of the solution.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)3678-3690
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 17 Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 American Chemical Society.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5500-73971


  • concentration polarization
  • electrophoretic mixing
  • membrane distillation
  • mineral scaling
  • nucleation


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