• Salt permeability of polyamide RO membranes is invariant in a wide salinity range. • The solution diffusion model adequately describes our seawater RO membranes. • Membrane leaks may cause a correlation between salinity and observed salt permeability. New developments in modeling solute transport in reverse osmosis (RO) membranes are based on the mechanistic description of solution friction and electromigration. In these models, the membrane charge significantly impacts the separation that occurs in the membrane through Donnan partitioning. One implication of membrane charge is that the salt permeability strongly depends on the ion concentration in the feedwater. In this study, we experimentally evaluate the effect of salinity, varied over almost two orders of magnitude (ca. 10–650mM), on four commercially available polyamide seawater RO and brackish water RO membranes. We found no significant effect of feed concentration on observed salt permeability, while the membrane performance closely resembled the specification by the manufacturers. We also demonstrate that a minor leak in the membrane provides a plausible alternative explanation to trend between concentration and salt permeability reported in other studies. The standard solution diffusion model provides a satisfactory description of our data for the membranes and feedwater conditions that we tested. .

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