Sulfate mineral scaling: From fundamental mechanisms to control strategies


Cao Z, Hu Y*, Zhao H, Cao B, Zhang P*. Sulfate mineral scaling: From fundamental mechanisms to control strategies. Water Research [Internet]. 2022;222:118945.
Sulfate mineral scaling: From fundamental mechanisms to control strategies


Sulfate scaling, as insoluble inorganic sulfate deposits, can cause serious operational problems in various industries, such as blockage of membrane pores and subsurface media and impairment of equipment functionality. There is limited article to bridge sulfate formation mechanisms with field scaling control practice. This article reviews the molecular-level interfacial reactions and thermodynamic basis controlling homogeneous and heterogeneous sulfate mineral nucleation and growth through classical and non-classical pathways. Common sulfate scaling control strategies were also reviewed, including pretreatment, chemical inhibition and surface modification. Furthermore, efforts were made to link the fundamental theories with industrial scale control practices. Effects of common inhibitors on different steps of sulfate formation pathways (i.e., ion pair and cluster formation, nucleation, and growth) were thoroughly discussed. Surface modifications to industrial facilities and membrane units were clarified as controlling either the deposition of homogeneous precipitates or the heterogeneous nucleation. Future research directions in terms of optimizing sulfate chemical inhibitor design and improving surface modifications are also discussed. This article aims to keep the readers abreast of the latest development in mechanistic understanding and control strategies of sulfate scale formation and to bridge knowledge developed in interfacial chemistry with engineering practice.