A few im­por­tant devel­op­ments in fil­tra­tion tech­nol­ogy

Ce­ramic mem­branes can now fil­ter 200 Dal­ton mo­lar mass mol­e­cules

Chemical Industry Digest - - New Developments -

Ce­ramic mem­branes offer an ef­fi­cient me­chan­i­cal sep­a­ra­tion tech­nol­ogy for clean­ing waste­water. Re­searchers have now de­vel­oped ce­ramic mem­branes ca­pa­ble of sep­a­rat­ing out smaller mol­e­cules than ever be­fore, en­abling the more ef­fi­cient pu­rifi­ca­tion of waste­water.

Re­searchers from the Fraun­hofer In­sti­tute for Ce­ramic Tech­nolo­gies and Sys­tems IKTS in Herms­dorf, Ger­many were able to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the sep­a­ra­tion lim­its of the mem­branes and to re­li­ably fil­ter off dis­solved or­ganic mol­e­cules with a mo­lar mass of 200 Dal­ton.

Sev­eral ob­sta­cles had to be over­come to achieve this re­sult. To sep­a­rate such small mol­e­cules re­li­ably, a mem­brane was needed with pores smaller than the mol­e­cules to be sep­a­rated. The Fraun­hofer team de­vel­oped a nanofil­tra­tion mem­brane with pores of <1 nanome­tre which can only pass water leav­ing be­hind much of the dis­solved mol­e­cules and some salts. The mem­brane can even fil­ter out sub­stances like an­tibi­otics and hor­mones which are present in drink­ing water. In ad­di­tion, all of the pores had to be as sim­i­lar in size as pos­si­ble. “We achieved these re­sults by re­fin­ing sol-gel tech­nol­ogy,” re­ports Richter, Head of Depart­ment at the IKTS.

The sec­ond hur­dle was to make such mem­brane lay­ers de­fect-free over larger sur­faces. “Whereas only a few square cen­time­ters of sur­face are usu­ally coated, we equipped a pi­lot sys­tem with a mem­brane area of 234 square me­ters, which means that our mem­brane is sev­eral mag­ni­tudes larger,” said Puhlfuerss, sci­en­tist at the IKTS.

A pi­lot plant com­mis­sioned by Shell in Al­berta, Canada, and built by An­dreas Jung­hans–An­la­gen­bau und Edel­stahlbear­beitung GmbH & Co. KG of Franken­berg, Ger­many, has been suc­cess­fully pu­ri­fy­ing waste­water since 2016, which is used for the ex­trac­tion of oil from oil sand.

The re­searchers are cur­rently plan­ning an ini­tial pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity with a mem­brane area of more than 5000 m2. Any kind of water can be pu­ri­fied, in­clud­ing heavy me­tals and dis­solved or­ganic sub­stances from agri­cul­tural ap­pli­ca­tions can be also re­moved. For the de­vel­op­ment of the ce­ramic nano fil­tra­tion mem­brane, re­searchers Voigt, Richter and Puhlfuerss have re­ceived this year’s Joseph-von-Fraun­hofer award.

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