Molecular thermodynamics for scaling prediction: Case of membrane distillation

Md Rashedul Islam, I. Min Hsieh, Bosong Lin, Amit K. Thakur, Chau Chyun Chen, Mahdi Malmali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Membrane distillation (MD) for water treatment is significantly impaired by the scaling of dissolved minerals. The type and content of minerals generally measured as total dissolved solids (TDS) in hypersaline brines not only reduce the MD flux but also control the scaling behavior on the membrane surface. The scaling-induced pore blockage further reduces water flux and eventually leads to membrane wetting. The scaling problem is even more pronounced in the treatment of produced water (PW) as it contains 3–7 times higher TDS concentrations, compared to seawater. Theoretically, the necessary conditions for a salt to precipitate can be traced from its solubility product constant and activity of the constituents within the solution. Therefore, a comprehensive thermodynamic model is necessary to represent the electrolyte behavior and to predict the precipitation of different salts in a complex solution like PW. We pursued electrolyte Nonrandom Two Liquid Theory (eNRTL), a state-of-the-art electrolyte model, to address the PW fluid phase equilibria. With a fully parameterized eNRTL model, we predicted salt precipitations in two different PW samples and compared the results against the experimental findings. Furthermore, we forecast the precipitation of salts in response to the change in PW concentration and temperature in the MD operation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119231
JournalSeparation and Purification Technology
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Membrane Distillation
  • Phase Equilibria
  • Produced Water
  • Scaling
  • Thermodynamics
  • eNRTL

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Filtration and Separation


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