Concentration polarization is a phenomenon inherent to membrane separation operations and as a precursor of membrane fouling is frequently related to the decrease in the performance of these operations. In the present work, a case-specific mass transfer correlation was developed to assess the concentration polarization when nanofiltration, in different operating conditions, was applied to treat a pharmaceutical wastewater containing atenolol. NF runs with two membranes, two atenolol concentrations and three feed circulating velocities were conducted, and the corresponding experimental mass transfer coefficients were determined using film theory to describe the concentration polarization phenomenon. Higher velocities led to higher mass transfer coefficients and, consequently, lower concentration polarization. These mass transfer coefficients were correlated with the circulating velocity (Re), the solute diffusivity (Sc) and the membrane permeability (LP+) (the membrane is a permeable interface with effect on the concentration profiles developed from the interface towards the bulk feed), yielding the following correlation Sh = 1.98 × 104Re0.5Sc0.33LP+0.32. The good agreement between the calculated and the experimental results makes this correlation a valuable tool for water practitioners to predict and control the concentration polarization during atenolol-rich wastewater treatment by nanofiltration, thereby increasing its productivity and selectivity.

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