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How does porosity heterogeneity affect the transport properties of multibore filtration membranes?


  • Matthias Wessling



Backwashing, Computational fluid dynamics, Flow magnetic resonance imaging, Heterogeneous membrane properties, Multibore membrane


The prediction of pressure and flow distributions inside porous membranes is important if the geometry deviates from single- bore tubular geometries. This task remains challenging, especially when considering local porosity variations caused by lumen- and shell-side membrane skins and macro- and micro-void structures, all of them present in multibore membranes. This study analyzes pure water forward and reverse permeation and backwashing phenomena for a polymeric multibore membrane with spatially-varying porosity and permeability properties using computational fluid dynamics simulations. The heterogeneity of porosity distribution is experimentally characterized by scanning electron microscopy scans and reconstructed cuboids of X-ray micro-computed tomography scans. The reconstructed cuboids are used to determine porosity, pore size distribution, and intrinsic permeability in the membrane’s porous structure in all spatial directions. These position-dependent properties are then applied to porous media flow simulations of the whole membrane domain with different properties for separation layer, support structure, and outside skin layer. Various cases mimicking the pure water permeation, fouling, and backwashing behavior of the membrane are simulated and compared to previously obtained MRI measurements. This work reveals (a) anisotropic permeability values and isoporosity in all directions and (b) differing contributions of each lumen channel to the total membrane performance, depending on the membrane-skin’s properties. This study encourages to pertain the quest of understanding the interaction of spatially distributed membrane properties and the overall membrane module performance of multibore membranes.


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