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Prog Polym Sci. 2016 Nov 10;81:209-237. doi: 10.1016/j.progpolymsci.2018.01.004.

A review of polymeric membranes and processes for potable water reuse.

Author information

Rohsenow Kendall Heat Transfer Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge MA 02139-4307 USA.
Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, 29 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
Laboratory of Transport Phenomena and Biotechnology, Department of Computer Engineering, Modeling, Electronic and Systems, University of Calabria, Via P. Bucci, Cubo 39/C, 87036 Rende, CS, Italy.
Institute Center for Water and Environment (iWATER), Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, PO Box 54224, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Orange County Water District (OCWD), Research and Development Department, 18700 Ward Street, Fountain Valley, CA 92708.
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, Coolbaugh Hall, 1012 14th St., Golden, CO 80401, USA.
Institute for Energy and the Environment/WERC, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003-8001, USA.
School of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering, University of Oklahoma, 110 East Boyd Street, Norman, OK.
Office of Research and Development, National Homeland Security Research Center, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (MD-E343-06), 109 T.W. Alexander Dr., Research Triangle Park, NC 27711, USA.
Chemical & Environmental Engineering, University of Arizona, 1133 E. James E. Rogers Way, Tucson, Arizona 85721 USA.
Civil & Environmental Engineering, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand.
National University of Singapore, NUS Environmental Research Institute (NERI), 5A Engineering Drive 1; T-Lab Building, #02-01; Singapore 117411.


Conventional water resources in many regions are insufficient to meet the water needs of growing populations, thus reuse is gaining acceptance as a method of water supply augmentation. Recent advancements in membrane technology have allowed for the reclamation of municipal wastewater for the production of drinking water, i.e., potable reuse. Although public perception can be a challenge, potable reuse is often the least energy-intensive method of providing additional drinking water to water stressed regions. A variety of membranes have been developed that can remove water contaminants ranging from particles and pathogens to dissolved organic compounds and salts. Typically, potable reuse treatment plants use polymeric membranes for microfiltration or ultrafiltration in conjunction with reverse osmosis and, in some cases, nanofiltration. Membrane properties, including pore size, wettability, surface charge, roughness, thermal resistance, chemical stability, permeability, thickness and mechanical strength, vary between membranes and applications. Advancements in membrane technology including new membrane materials, coatings, and manufacturing methods, as well as emerging membrane processes such as membrane bioreactors, electrodialysis, and forward osmosis have been developed to improve selectivity, energy consumption, fouling resistance, and/or capital cost. The purpose of this review is to provide a comprehensive summary of the role of polymeric membranes in the treatment of wastewater to potable water quality and highlight recent advancements in separation processes. Beyond membranes themselves, this review covers the background and history of potable reuse, and commonly used potable reuse process chains, pretreatment steps, and advanced oxidation processes. Key trends in membrane technology include novel configurations, materials and fouling prevention techniques. Challenges still facing membrane-based potable reuse applications, including chemical and biological contaminant removal, membrane fouling, and public perception, are highlighted as areas in need of further research and development.


Potable reuse; filtration; fouling; nanocomposite membranes; polymeric membranes; reverse osmosis

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