A novel application of membrane distillation to facilitate nickel recovery from electroplating wastewater

  • Hung C. DuongEmail author
  • Thao M. Pham
  • Son T. Luong
  • Ky V. Nguyen
  • Diu T. Nguyen
  • Ashley J. Ansari
  • Long D. Nghiem
Research Article


In many years, the nickel electroplating technique has been applied to coat nickel on other materials for their increased properties. Nickel electroplating has played a vital role in our modern society but also caused considerable environmental concerns due to the mass discharge of its wastewater (i.e. containing nickel and other heavy metals) to the environment. Thus, there is a growing need for treating nickel electroplating wastewater to protect the environment and, in tandem, recover nickel for beneficial use. This study explores a novel application of membrane distillation (MD) for the treatment of nickel electroplating wastewater for a dual purpose: facilitating the nickel recovery and obtaining fresh water. The experimental results demonstrate the technical capability of MD to pre-concentrate nickel in the wastewater (i.e. hence pave the way for subsequent nickel recovery via chemical precipitation or electrodeposition) and extract fresh water. At a low operating feed temperature of 60 °C, the MD process increased the nickel content in the wastewater by more than 100-fold from 0.31 to 33 g/L with only a 20% reduction in the process water flux and obtained pure fresh water. At such high concentration factors, the membrane surface was slightly fouled by inorganic precipitates; however, membrane pore wetting was not evident, confirmed by the purity of the obtained fresh water. The fouled membrane was effectively cleaned using a 3% HCl solution to restore its surface morphology. Finally, the preliminary thermal energy analysis of the combined MD–chemical precipitation/electrodeposition process reveals a considerable reduction in energy consumption of the nickel recovery process.


Membrane distillation (MD) Nickel recovery Nickel electroplating wastewater treatment Membrane wetting 



  1. Abdelkader S, Gross F, Winter D, Went J, Koschikowski J, Geissen SU, Bousselmi L (2018) Application of direct contact membrane distillation for saline dairy effluent treatment: performance and fouling analysis. Environ. Sci. Pollut. Res.
  2. Almazán-Ruiz FJ, Caballero F, Cruz-Díaz MR, Rivero EP, Vazquez-Arenas J, González I (2015) Nickel recovery from an electroplating rinsing effluent using RCE bench scale and RCE pilot plant reactors: the influence of pH control. Chem. Eng. Res. Des. 97:18–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barakat MA (2011) New trends in removing heavy metals from industrial wastewater. Arab. J. Chem. 4:361–377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blais J-F, Djedidi Z, Cheikh RD, Tyagi R, Mercier G (2008) Metals precipitation from effluents: review. Pract Period Hazard Toxic Radio Waste Manag 12:135–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chen Q, Kum Ja M, Li Y, Chua KJ (2018) Thermodynamic optimization of a vacuum multi-effect membrane distillation system for liquid desiccant regeneration. Appl Energ 230:960–973CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Coman V, Robotin B, Ilea P (2013) Nickel recovery/removal from industrial wastes: a review. Resour Conserv Recyc 73:229–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Denkhaus E, Salnikow K (2002) Nickel essentiality, toxicity, and carcinogenicity. Crit Rev Oncol Hematol 42:35–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Drioli E, Ali A, Macedonio F (2015) Membrane distillation: recent developments and perspectives. Desalination 356:56–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Duong HC, Álvarez IRC, Nguyen TV, Nghiem LD (2018) Membrane distillation to regenerate different liquid desiccant solutions for air conditioning. Desalination 443:137–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Duong HC, Chivas AR, Nelemans B, Duke M, Gray S, Cath TY, Nghiem LD (2015a) Treatment of RO brine from CSG produced water by spiral-wound air gap membrane distillation—a pilot study. Desalination 366:121–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Duong HC, Cooper P, Nelemans B, Cath TY, Nghiem LD (2016a) Evaluating energy consumption of membrane distillation for seawater desalination using a pilot air gap system. Sep Purif Technol 166:55–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Duong HC, Cooper P, Nelemans B, Nghiem LD (2015b) Optimising thermal efficiency of direct contact membrane distillation via brine recycling for small-scale seawater desalination. Desalination 374:1–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Duong HC, Duke M, Gray S, Cath TY, Nghiem LD (2015c) Scaling control during membrane distillation of coal seam gas reverse osmosis brine. J Membr Sci 493:673–682CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Duong HC, Duke M, Gray S, Cooper P, Nghiem LD (2016b) Membrane scaling and prevention techniques during seawater desalination by air gap membrane distillation. Desalination 397:92–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Duong HC, Duke M, Gray S, Nelemans B, Nghiem LD (2016c) Membrane distillation and membrane electrolysis of coal seam gas reverse osmosis brine for clean water extraction and NaOH production. Desalination 397:108–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Duong HC, Hai FI, Al-Jubainawi A, Ma Z, He T, Nghiem LD (2017) Liquid desiccant lithium chloride regeneration by membrane distillation for air conditioning. Sep. Purif. Technol. 177:121–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ge J, Peng Y, Li Z, Chen P, Wang S (2014) Membrane fouling and wetting in a DCMD process for RO brine concentration. Desalination 344:97–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Giannopoulou I, Panias D (2007) Copper and nickel recovery from acidic polymetallic aqueous solutions. Miner. Eng. 20:753–760CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Giannopoulou I, Panias D (2008) Differential precipitation of copper and nickel from acidic polymetallic aqueous solutions. Hydrometallurgy 90:137–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. González D, Amigo J, Suárez F (2017) Membrane distillation: perspectives for sustainable and improved desalination. Renew. Sust. Energ. Rev. 80:238–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gryta M (2005) Long-term performance of membrane distillation process. J. Membr. Sci. 265:153–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Han L, Tan YZ, Netke T, Fane AG, Chew JW (2017) Understanding oily wastewater treatment via membrane distillation. J. Membr. Sci. 539:284–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kasprzak KS, Sunderman FW, Salnikow K (2003) Nickel carcinogenesis. Mutat Res Fund Mol Mech Mut 533:67–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Leaper S, Abdel-Karim A, Gad-Allah TA, Gorgojo P (2019) Air-gap membrane distillation as a one-step process for textile wastewater treatment. Chem. Eng. J. 360:1330–1340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lefers R, Bettahalli NMS, Fedoroff N, Nunes SP, Leiknes T (2018) Vacuum membrane distillation of liquid desiccants utilizing hollow fiber membranes. Sep. Purif. Technol. 199:57–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Li F, Huang J, Xia Q, Lou M, Yang B, Tian Q, Liu Y (2018) Direct contact membrane distillation for the treatment of industrial dyeing wastewater and characteristic pollutants. Sep. Purif. Technol. 195:83–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Li XM, Zhao B, Wang Z, Xie M, Song J, Nghiem LD, He T, Yang C, Li C, Chen G (2014) Water reclamation from shale gas drilling flow-back fluid using a novel forward osmosis-vacuum membrane distillation hybrid system. Wat Sci Tech 69:1036–1044CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mubarok MZ, Lieberto J (2013) Precipitation of nickel hydroxide from simulated and atmospheric-leach solution of nickel laterite ore. Procedia Earth Planet Sci 6:457–464CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nguyen NC, Chen S-S, Jain S, Nguyen HT, Ray SS, Ngo HH, Guo W, Lam NT, Duong HC (2018) Exploration of an innovative draw solution for a forward osmosis-membrane distillation desalination process. Environ Sci Pollut Res 25:5203–5211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Njau KN, Woude Mv, Visser GJ, Janssen LJJ (2000) Electrochemical removal of nickel ions from industrial wastewater. Chem Eng J 79:187–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Orhan G, Arslan C, Bombach H, Stelter M (2002) Nickel recovery from the rinse waters of plating baths. Hydrometallurgy 65:1–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Peng C, Jin R, Li G, Li F, Gu Q (2014) Recovery of nickel and water from wastewater with electrochemical combination process. Sep Purif Technol 136:42–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Peng Y, Ge J, Li Z, Wang S (2015) Effects of anti-scaling and cleaning chemicals on membrane scale in direct contact membrane distillation process for RO brine concentrate. Sep Purif Technol 154:22–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Plattner J, Kazner C, Naidu G, Wintgens T, Vigneswaran S (2018) Removal of selected pesticides from groundwater by membrane distillation. Environ. Sci. Pollut. Res. 25:20336–20347CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rezaei M, Warsinger DM, Lienhard VJH, Samhaber WM (2017) Wetting prevention in membrane distillation through superhydrophobicity and recharging an air layer on the membrane surface. J Membr Sci 530:42–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sanmartino JA, Khayet M, García-Payo MC, El-Bakouri H, Riaza A (2017) Treatment of reverse osmosis brine by direct contact membrane distillation: chemical pretreatment approach. Desalination 420:79–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sist C, Demopoulos GP (2003) Nickel hydroxide precipitation from aqueous sulfate media. JOM 55:42–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Swaminathan J, Lienhard JH (2018) Design and operation of membrane distillation with feed recirculation for high recovery brine concentration. Desalination 445:51–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Tomaszewska M, Gryta M, Morawski AW (2001) Recovery of hydrochloric acid from metal pickling solutions by membrane distillation. Sep Purif Technol 22(23):591–600CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Velioğlu S, Han L, Chew JW (2018) Understanding membrane pore-wetting in the membrane distillation of oil emulsions via molecular dynamics simulations. J. Membr. Sci. 551:76–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wang Z, Chen Y, Sun X, Duddu R, Lin S (2018) Mechanism of pore wetting in membrane distillation with alcohol vs. surfactant. J. Membr. Sci. 559:183–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wang Z, Lin S (2017) Membrane fouling and wetting in membrane distillation and their mitigation by novel membranes with special wettability. Water Res. 112:38–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Xie M, Nghiem LD, Price WE, Elimelech M (2013) A forward osmosis–membrane distillation hybrid process for direct sewer mining: system performance and limitations. Environ. Sci. Technol. 47:13486–13493CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Zhang P, Knötig P, Gray S, Duke M (2015) Scale reduction and cleaning techniques during direct contact membrane distillation of seawater reverse osmosis brine. Desalination 374:20–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Zhang Z, Du X, Carlson KH, Robbins CA, Tong T (2019) Effective treatment of shale oil and gas produced water by membrane distillation coupled with precipitative softening and walnut shell filtration. Desalination 454:82–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Technology in Water and WastewaterUniversity of Technology SydneyUltimoAustralia
  2. 2.Le Quy Don Technical UniversityHanoiVietnam
  3. 3.Strategic Water Infrastructure Laboratory, School of Civil, Mining and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia

Personalised recommendations