This study was to experimentally investigate the performance and organic fouling behaviour in a 1-m long RO membrane channel with or without spacer for desalting. It was found that local permeate flux distributed heterogeneously along the long membrane channel without a spacer inserted due to exponential growth of concentration polarization, which also resulted in decreasing salt rejection and increasing organic fouling along the membrane channel in the downstream direction. This heterogeneity could be lessened by inserting a spacer into the channel, which mitigated concentration polarization due to the enhanced turbulence caused by a spacer, especially at the downstream portion of the channel. However, in the upstream of the channel, inserting a spacer exerted an additional vertical resistance which might counteract the effect of concentration polarization mitigation by a spacer and caused a lower permeate flux. This suggests that it is necessary to consider the integral effect of spacer for designing an RO membrane module and an overall RO system in order to prevent extra resistance, reduce concentration polarization and membrane fouling.

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