Particulate matter present in feed water of reverse osmosis and nanofiltration membrane elements tends to deposit on the membrane surface and spacers. This type of fouling results in permeate flux decline, loss of product quality and membrane damage. To characterize the fouling potential of RO feed water the Silt Density Index (SDI) and the Modified Fouling Index (MFI0.45) are commonly applied. SDI is applied worldwide for many years on a routine basis by operators since it is a simple and cheap test. Unfortunately, the SDI has several deficiencies e.g. it is not based on any filtration mechanism, has no linear relation with particulate matter and is not corrected for temperature, pressure and membrane resistance. This might explain the frequently reported erratic results obtained in practice, e.g. water treated with ultrafiltration showed in several cases high SDI values, which could not be attributed to failures of the UF membrane elements or systems. To overcome these deficiencies the MFI0.45 has been developed. This test is based on the occurrence of cake filtration during a substantial part of the test, has a linear relation with particulate matter content, and is corrected for pressure and temperature. However the manual procedure of measuring an MFI0.45 is somewhat more complicated and for this reason less suitable for application on a routine basis in practice. Fully automated equipment, measuring SDI and MFI0.45 at the same time is on the market. In this study a mathematical relation between SDI and MFI0.45 has been successfully developed, assuming that cake filtration is the dominant filtration mechanism during the tests. Based on the developed mathematical relation and experiments with an artificial colloidal suspension of aluminum oxide spheres (0.6 μm) as model water, it could be demonstrated that the SDI depends on pressure, temperature and membrane resistance. The effect of temperature and membrane resistance explains to a large extent the erratic results from the field. It is recommended to correcting SDI for temperature and membrane resistance and/or to making the guideline formulated by ASTM for the allowable range of membrane resistances much more stringent.
Al-Hadidi, A. M. M., Alhadidi, A., Kemperman, A. J. B., Blankert, B., Blankert, B., Schippers, J. C., ... van der Meer, W. G. J. (2011). Silt density index and modified fouling index relation, and effect of pressure, temperature and membrane resistance. Desalination, 273(1), 48-56. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.desal.2010.11.031