High-tech membranes are catching on as a lower cost, non-chemical and more sustainable water treatment process, but there’s a catch: they can quickly foul with dirt and other particles. Enter NanoBrane, a nanotechnology company with a patent-pending breakthrough in membrane properties that prevents fouling. That makes the treatment process run more efficiently and reduces the downtime needed to service the membranes, potentially reducing operating expenses by up to 20%.
High-Tech Membranes and Non-Chemical Water Treatment
Conventional water and wastewater treatment both rely on a variety of chemicals, but that is rapidly changing. Non-chemical water treatment methods are entering the market at a rapid clip, partly in response to environmental concerns and partly as a response to chemical price spikes and shortages that bedeviled water suppliers during the recent commodities boom. High-tech membranes are among the new technologies being offered by start-ups and industry giants such as IBM, including ultrafiltration, nanofiltration, microfiltration, and new reverse osmosis membranes.
High-Tech Membranes and Fouling
Because of their small pore size, the new membranes clog up quickly with particles. This causes the pumps in the treatment plant to work harder, wasting energy. In order to keep the plant operating efficiently, the membranes must be cleaned regularly, which can disrupt operations and incur more expenses. In addition, chemical cleaners reduce the effectiveness of the membrane, resulting in the need for frequent replacement that can account for up to 30% of a treatment plant’s annual operating expenses.
NanoBrane and the Environment-Responsive Water Treatment Membrane
NanoBrane has come up with an ingenious solution to the fouling problem, with a new type of water treatment membrane it calls Environment-Responsive. Instead of operating like a simple sieve, ER is an interactive membrane that reacts to changes in the concentration of particles in the water, and to changes in water quality, light, electric and magnetic fields, and pressure. The ER membrane deploys properties relating to the size and structure of the pores and their affinity with certain substances, which together keep particles from attaching too strongly to the membrane surface. According to NanoBrane, the flushing and chemical treatments needed to clean an ER membrane are greatly reduced. This enhances the efficiency of the treatment plant overall, and it also effectively doubles the life of the membrane.
Image: Darwin Bell on flickr.com.