ROBUST Desalination Membrane Resists Biofouling

Researchers have developed a hybrid water purification membrane that can resist the harsh chemicals used for cleaning.

AsianScientist (Dec. 8, 2015) – Researchers at Hiroshima University have developed an ultra-thin layered membrane that improves the removal of salt from seawater. The partly silicon membrane, described in a paper published in the Journal of Membrane Science, can resist heat and cleansing agents like chlorine, enabling an improved industrial process.

“A global shortage of fresh water is a long-term challenge that mankind faces in this century,” said the director of the ROBUST membrane project, Professor Toshinori Tsuru, speaking of the new technology’s potential to alleviate fresh water shortages.

The ultra-thin layered membrane acts as a sieve and separates salt from seawater to produce fresh water, a technique known as reverse osmosis. The membrane is partly made from silicon and overcomes several challenges of existing designs by tolerating the harsh conditions inside desalination plant equipment.

One practical problem of separation membranes is ‘biofouling,’ where biofilms form on the membrane surface. This slows the amount of water that can pass through the membrane. Sodium hypochlorite is commonly used to remove these biofilms; however, the chlorine can also damage the membrane.

Tsuru, who is supported by Core Research for Evolutional Science and Technology (CREST) and is a member of the Center for Research on Environmentally Friendly Smart Materials at Hiroshima University’s Institute of Engineering, said that the new membranes are more robust, which makes them resistant to chlorine. They are also heat resistant, meaning they can be used in desalination at a temperature of 80°C.

“We are developing ROBUST membranes using three materials: silicon-based, hydrocarbon, and chemical vapor deposition. First we have developed silicon-based ROBUST membranes,” Tsuru said.

The article can be found at: Gong et al. (2015) Reverse Osmosis Performance of Layered-hybrid Membranes Consisting of an Organosilica Separation Layer on Polymer Supports.


Source: Hiroshima University; Photo: Arun Katiyar/Flickr/CC.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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