Acrylonitrile wastewater is one of the most refractory industrial wastewaters as it contains cyanide at a high concentration. This study introduced a safe, effective and economic strategy, that is, use of the gas membrane to acrylonitrile wastewater treatment. Due to the complicated constituents of acrylonitrile wastewater, cyanide removal rate by gas membrane is very low. In order to enhance HCN removal, the operational conditions were optimized; pre-treatment strategies for fouling mitigation were also proposed and tested for acrylonitrile wastewater. The optimal operational parameters were achieved at an acidified pH of 5.0, wastewater velocity of 0.14 m s−1, NaOH concentration of 10% and a temperature of 40 °C. The major factor affecting HCN removal was the pH of the acidified wastewater. The reason for the low removal rate was further explored and found to be the decrease of HCN transfer coefficient, which was caused by membrane fouling. Furthermore, the predominant foulants have been identified as colloidal organic materials and inorganic salts. Alkalization, which is effective in reducing these materials, has been proven to be most effective in mitigating membrane fouling and improving HCN removal, which was also confirmed by a pilot-scale study. The overall removal rate was therefore significantly enhanced to 87.1%.

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