Rejection of emerging organic micropollutants in nanofiltration-reverse osmosis membrane applications

Pei Xu, Jörg E. Drewes, Christopher Bellona, Gary Amy, Tae Uk Kim, Marc Adam, Thomas Heberer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

178 Scopus citations


The rejection of emerging trace organics by a variety of commercial reverse osmosis (RO), nanofiltration (NF), and ultra-low-pressure RO (ULPRO) membranes was investigated using TFC-HR, NF-90, NF-200, TFC-SR2, and XLE spiral membrane elements (Koch Membrane Systems, Wilmington, Massachusetts) to simulate operational conditions for drinking-water treatment and wastewater reclamation. In general, the presence of effluent organic matter (EfOM) improved the rejection of ionic organics by tight NF and RO membranes, as compared to a type-II water matrix (adjusted by ionic strength and hardness), likely as a result of a decreased negatively charged membrane surface. Rejection of ionic pharmaceutical residues and pesticides exceeded 95% by NF-90, XLE, and TFC-HR membranes and was above 89% for the NF-200 membrane. Hydrophobic nonionic compounds, such as bromoform and chloroform, exhibited a high initial rejection, as a result of both hydrophobic-hydrophobic solute-membrane interactions and steric exclusion, but rejection decreased significantly after 10 hours of operation because of partitioning of solutes through the membranes. This resulted in a partial removal of disinfection byproducts by the RO membrane TFC-HR. In a type-II water matrix, the effect of increasing feed water recoveries on rejection of hydrophilic ionic and nonionic compounds was compound-dependent and not consistent for different membranes. The presence of EfOM, however, could neutralize the effect of hydrodynamic operating condition on rejection performance. The ULPRO and tight NF membranes were operated at lower feed pressure, as compared to the TFC-HR, and provided a product water quality similar to a conventional RO membrane, regarding trace organics of interest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-48
Number of pages9
JournalWater Environment Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Disinfection byproducts
  • Emerging organic micropollutants
  • Integrated membrane systems
  • Nanofiltration
  • Pesticides
  • Pharmaceutical residues
  • Reclamation
  • Reverse osmosis
  • Water reuse


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