Various membrane separation processes are being used for seawater desalination and treatment of wastewaters in order to deal with the worldwide water shortage problem. Different types of membranes of distinct morphologies, structures and physico-chemical characteristics are employed. Among the considered membrane technologies, membrane distillation (MD), osmotic distillation (OD) and osmotic membrane distillation (OMD) use porous and hydrophobic membranes for production of distilled water and/or concentration of wastewaters for recovery and recycling of valuable compounds. However, the efficiency of these technologies is hampered by fouling phenomena. This refers to the accumulation of organic/inorganic deposits including biological matter on the membrane surface and/or in the membrane pores. Fouling in MD, OD and OMD differs from that observed in electric and pressure-driven membrane processes such electrodialysis (ED), membrane capacitive deionization (MCD), reverse osmosis (RO), nanofiltration (NF), ultrafiltration (UF), microfiltration (MF), etc. Other than pore blockage, fouling in MD, OD and OMD increases the risk of membrane pores wetting and reduces therefore the quantity and quality of the produced water or the concentration efficiency of the process. This review deals with the observed fouling phenomena in MD, OD and OMD. It highlights different detected fouling types (organic fouling, inorganic fouling and biofouling), fouling characterization techniques as well as various methods of fouling reduction including pretreatment, membrane modification, membrane cleaning and antiscalants application.
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