The polymer assisted ultrafiltration (PAUF) process for treatment of wastewaters containing metal ions chelated with citric acid has been studiedgiving particular attention to the chemical and operational aspects. The polyethylenimine (PEI) polymer bound quantitatively the copper(II)–citratechelate at pH 5.5 forming the ternary PEI–Cu–citrate complex as discussed considering the stability constants. The ternary complexwas separated byUF membranes producing a permeate with very low metal concentration. Best performance was obtained with the Iris 30 membrane (permeate flux167.4 L h−1 m−2; rejection 98.8%) by operating at 4×105 Pa (4 bar). The limiting concentration (maximum retentate concentration for obtaininga copper(II) concentration in the permeate lower than 1.3 mg L−1 corresponding to 2.04×10−5 mol L−1), was 250 mg L−1 (3.93×10−3 mol L−1)for Iris 30 membrane and 400 mg L−1 (6.29×10−3 mol L−1) for Iris 10 membrane by operating with both constant trans-membrane pressure andconstant permeate flow rate modes. The polymer regeneration was carried out with good results by operating with the diafiltration method and usingboth the membranes, but the Iris 30 membrane, operated at 4×105 Pa (4 bar), performed a little better owing to the higher flux. The copper ionpresent in the diafiltration permeate was recovered by oxidising the citrate in a membrane photoreactor. The obtained results permitted to draw anintegrated membrane process combining complexation–UF–diafiltration–photocatalysis to treat metal containing wastewaters (e.g. washing waterfrom soil remediation) for obtaining water recyclable in the process itself or safely discharged, recycling the polymer and recovering the metals.
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