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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Enhanced Forward Osmosis Desalination with a Hybrid Ionic Liquid/Hydrogel Thermoresponsive Draw Agent System.

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Forward osmosis (FO) has emerged as a new technology for desalination and exhibits potentials for applications where reverse osmosis is incapable or uneconomical for treating streams with high salinity or fouling propensity. However, most of current draw agents in FO are salts and difficult to be recycled cost- and energy-effectively. In this work, we demonstrate a new and facile approach to efficiently recover water from the FO process with enhanced water purity by using a binary ion liquid/hydrogel system. The hybrid ion liquid/hydrogel draw solution system demonstrated in this work synergistically leverages the thermoresponsive properties of both the ionic liquid (IL) and hydrogel to improve the overall FO performance. Our findings corroborate that the hydrogel mitigates the water flux decline of the IL as the draw agent and provide a ready route to contiguously and effectively regenerate water from the FO process. Such a route allows for an efficient recovery of water from the draw solute/water mixture with enhanced water purity, compared with conventional thermal treating of lower critical solution temperature IL draw solute/water. Furthermore, hydrogels can be used in a continuous and readily recyclable process to recover water without heating the entire draw solute/water mixture. Our design principles open the door to use low-grade/waste heat or solar energy to regenerate draw agents and potentially reduce energy in the FO process considerably.

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