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J Colloid Interface Sci. 2012 Apr 15;372(1):217-30. doi: 10.1016/j.jcis.2011.12.067. Epub 2012 Jan 18.

Multistep mineral fouling growth on a cation-exchange membrane ruled by gradual sieving effects of magnesium and carbonate ions and its delay by pulsed modes of electrodialysis.

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Institute of Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods (INAF) and Dairy Research Center (STELA), Department of Food Sciences and Nutrition, Pavillon Comtois, Université Laval, Sainte-Foy (Qc), Canada G1V 0A6.


The aim of this study was to reveal the mechanisms ruling a fouling growth on both sides of a CMX-SB cation-exchange membrane (CEM), run after run during three consecutive electrodialysis (ED) treatments. A model solution containing a high magnesium/calcium ratio (2/5) was demineralized under two different pulsed electric field (PEF) on-duty ratios and dc current. The results showed a series of mechanisms ruling a multilayer mineral fouling growth and its delay by PEFs. The nature of the fouling layer, during a first run, depended on the diluate pH-value evolutions and the ion migration rates through the membrane. A subsequent multilayer fouling growth during consecutive treatments was ruled by the already formed mineral layers, where gradual sieving effects inverted the migration rates and led to a multistep crystal growth. Calcium carbonate grew on the diluate side of CEM, starting from its amorphous phase to then crystallize in a coexisting presence of aragonite and calcite. Amorphous magnesium hydroxide appeared on CEM apparently through fouling dehydration ruled by the mineral layers themselves and by overlimiting current regimes. A delayed fouling growth was observed for PEF ratio 0.3. A long pause lapse during pulse modes was demonstrated as an important parameter for fouling mitigation.

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