The recycling of semisynthetic metalworking fluids (MWFs) using alumina membranes is significantly impacted by aggregated MWF microemulsions that cause partial and complete blocking of membrane pores. In this paper, computational fluid dynamic methods are employed to model both a portion of a sintered alumina membrane with tortuous pores and the microemulsions passing through it. Several particle size distributions, measured experimentally at various times through the membrane service life and under two different cross-flow velocities, were used to determine the particle sizes simulated in the flow. Simulated MWF particles smaller than the largest pore diameter were found to completely block the pore through the build-up of a network of particles that blocked smaller diameter inlets and outlets. The results demonstrate as well that significant membrane flux reduction can occur by partial blocking of pore inlets and outlets even in the absence of complete blocking.

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