Although acidification of feed water is a common practice to prevent scaling of the sparingly soluble minerals in nanofiltration and reverse osmosis processes, the change of acidity may have a potentially adverse impact on colloidal fouling, which is another important type of fouling on the membranes. In this paper, commonly used strong and weak acids are quantitatively investigated for their effect on colloidal silica fouling with a lab-scale ultrafiltration (UF) membrane system. Experiments showed that addition of either strong or weak acids in feed water would intensify colloidal fouling. However, the strength of colloidal fouling with strong acid addition was consistently higher (12-37%) than that with weak acid addition at pH 3. The smaller increase in colloidal fouling potential observed with weak acids was attributed to the adsorption of weak acid anions on the colloidal silica surface, which kept the absolute value of zeta potential of the colloids relatively high. Consequently, the difference in colloidal fouling potential with the additions of strong and weak acids diminished at high salt concentration. The findings implied that the type of acid used in feed water acidification could have a significant impact on colloidal fouling for low-salinity waters.
- Colloidal silica fouling