Chlorination disadvantages and alternative routes for biofouling control in reverse osmosis desalination

Mohammed Al-Abri*, Buthayna Al-Ghafri, Tanujjal Bora, Sergey Dobretsov, Joydeep Dutta, Stefania Castelletto, Lorenzo Rosa, Albert Boretti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

102 Citations (Scopus)


With an ever-increasing human population, access to clean water for human use is a growing concern across the world. Seawater desalination to produce usable water is essential to meet future clean water demand. Desalination processes, such as reverse osmosis and multi-stage flash have been implemented worldwide. Reverse osmosis is the most effective technology, which uses a semipermeable membrane to produce clean water under an applied pressure. However, membrane biofouling is the main issue faced by such plants, which requires continuous cleaning or regular replacement of the membranes. Chlorination is the most commonly used disinfection process to pretreat the water to reduce biofouling. Although chlorination is widely used, it has several disadvantages, such as formation of disinfection by-products and being ineffective against some types of microbes. This review aims to discuss the adverse effect of chlorination on reverse osmosis membranes and to identify other possible alternatives of chlorination to reduce biofouling of the membranes. Reverse osmosis membrane degradation and mitigation of chlorines effects, along with newly emerging disinfection technologies, are discussed, providing insight to both academic institutions and industries for the design of improved reverse osmosis systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Journalnpj Clean Water
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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