A method for the simultaneous determination of transport and structural parameters of forward osmosis membranes

Alberto Tiraferri, Ngai Yin Yip, Anthony P. Straub, Santiago Romero-Vargas Castrillon, Menachem Elimelech

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305 Scopus citations


We present a simple and rapid methodology to characterize the water and solute permeability coefficients (A and B, respectively) and structural parameter (S) of forward osmosis (FO) membranes. The methodology comprises a single FO experiment divided into four stages, each using a different concentration of draw solution. The experimental water and reverse salt fluxes measured in each stage are fitted to the corresponding FO transport equations by performing a least-squares non-linear regression, using A, B, and S as regression parameters. Hand-cast thin-film composite (TFC) FO membranes and commercial TFC FO, TFC reverse osmosis (RO), and cellulose acetate-based asymmetric FO membranes are evaluated following this protocol. We compare the membrane properties obtained with our FO-based methodology with those derived from existing protocols based on an RO experiment followed by an FO experiment. For all membranes, the FO-based protocol gives more accurate predictions of the water and salt fluxes than the existing method. The numerical robustness of the method and the sensitivity of the regression parameters to random errors in the measured quantities are thoroughly analyzed. The assessment shows that confidence in the accuracy of the determined membrane parameters can be enhanced by simultaneously achieving close fitting of the predicted fluxes to experimental measurements (i.e., high R2 values) and constant water to salt flux ratios in each stage. Additionally, the existing and proposed approaches yield consistently dissimilar results for some of the analyzed membranes, indicating a discrepancy that might be attributed to the different driving forces utilized in RO and in FO that should be further investigated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-538
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge the support received from the National Science Foundation under Award Number CBET 1232619 . We also acknowledge the Graduate Fellowship (to N.Y.Y.) made by the Environment and Water Industrial Development Council of Singapore and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship awarded to A.P.S.


  • Active layer
  • Forward osmosis
  • Membrane characterization
  • Permeability
  • Structural parameter
  • Transport


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