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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Evaluation of a nanoporous lyotropic liquid crystal polymer membrane for the treatment of hydraulic fracturing produced water via cross-flow filtration


Current commercial nanofiltration and reverse osmosis membranes are limited in scope and performance due to their physicochemical properties. Desalination of hydraulic fracturing wastewater poses a particular challenge to membrane filtration given the high concentrations of both organic compounds and salts present in these waters. The recently-developed nanoporous, bicontinuous cubic, lyotropic liquid crystal, thin-film-composite polymer membrane (TFC QI membrane), having unique physicochemical properties, enables an alternative treatment of hydraulic fracturing wastewater. Specifically, the TFC QI membrane recovers the organic compounds from this high-salinity wastewater, enabling biodegradation to occur after desalination. However, other performance criteria must be demonstrated for a membrane to reach application. The work presented herein demonstrates the stable performance of the TFC QI membrane during 66 h of cross-flow filtration of hydraulic fracturing produced water. Compared to the commercial NF90 membrane, the TFC QI membrane recovered a larger portion of the organic compounds, had a higher thickness-normalized water flux, and fouled less. The combination of the TFC QI membrane's selectivity with its reduced fouling propensity makes possible a treatment for hydraulic fracturing wastewater and other complex aqueous streams inaccessible by most commercial membranes, motivating the further study and development of the TFC QI membrane.

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