Application of membrane technologies in water purification
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The world is facing a serious water crisis due to rapid population growth, industrialization and climate change. Water purification using membrane technologies provides a promising solution to address this problem. This thesis investigated the feasibility of membrane technologies in a wide range of applications covering drinking water purification and wastewater treatment. Target contaminants included fluoride, natural organic matter (NOM), emerging contaminants bisphenol A (BPA) and cimetidine, and the waterborne parasite Cryptosporidium. The first part of the thesis explored the solute-solute interactions of fluoride and humic substances (HS) in order to understand the behaviour of fluoride in natural water and during membrane filtration processes. It is shown that, at low pH and high ionic strength, fluoride ions are temporarily trapped inside the structure of HS aggregates. The second part of the thesis examined the feasibility of nanofiltration (NF) and reverse osmosis (RO) in treating challenging natural waters in Tanzania containing high fluoride and NOM concentrations, with the aim to increase the availability of drinking water sources. Fluoride retention was found to be dependent on ionic strength and recovery, which was predominantly due to a solution-diffusion mechanism. NOM retention was independent of water matrices but was governed by a size exclusion mechanism. NOM was observed to have a positive impact on fluoride removal. The third part of this work evaluated the on-site performance of a pilot-scale renewable energy powered membrane system in remote areas under varying solar conditions. While the technology is well established, the adaptation to remote areas is far from achieved. The system used in this study reliably produced high-quality drinking water despite of solar fluctuations. This area requires further work in terms of integration, technology adaptation and operation and maintenance schemes. The last part of the thesis reported the development of a series of novel photocatalytic polymers and tested their capabilities in removing wastewater contaminants. The photoactive polymers were highly capable of degrading BPA and cimetidine, as well as inactivating Cryptosporidium. These are very promising materials for simultaneous decontamination and disinfection of wastewater. The results obtained from this thesis provide new insights into solute-solute interactions, solute transport mechanisms, decentralized membrane system and novel membrane materials, which are hoped to contribute to advancements in current membrane technologies.