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Macrovoid resolved simulations of transport through HPRO relevant membrane geometries...

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Journal of Membrane Science
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Modeling the transport properties such as diffusivity and permeability of high pressure reverse osmosis (HPRO) membranes is critical for the selection and manufacture of membranes suitable for operation under high pressure. These properties can be significantly affected by the changes in heterogeneous pore structures due to compaction. The modeling platform presented in this work resolves the two scale porosity in HPRO relevant membranes. A synthetic membrane geometry is constructed based on available experimental visualizations of pore structures. The simulations directly capture the flow channeling that results from a combination of material properties and geometric features of the macrovoids. A parametric study is presented to account for the transition of flow characteristics from a material governed regime to a macrovoid governed regime. Permeability of the membrane is evaluated using the simulation data and compared with an existing model that scales with the square of tortuosity over a range of material properties. The model is found to perform well under a narrow range of tortuosity while deviating from the calculated permeabilities at extreme conditions. The effective permeability of the membrane is found to vary by at least two orders of magnitude between the two flow regimes. It is also observed that tortuosity is a bounded property with its upper limit determined by the macrovoid geometry. Consequently, the tortuosity based correlations fail near a flow regime that is mainly governed by the macrovoids. The modeled permeability can be more than an order of magnitude smaller than the simulation result. A new model based on flux-weighted porosity of a membrane is introduced and its correlation with tortuosity is studied. The model agrees with the simulated data as, in addition to tortuosity, it also accounts for the flux partition within and outside the flow channels. Such correlations enable extending the existing understanding of flow characteristics to enhance predictability of porous media models.