Successful membrane modification enabling fouling reduction while maintaining hydrophilicity

Availability of clean water is a  world-wide challenge. Development of efficient water purification, desalination and recycling technologies have been high on the world’s water management agenda.

Membrane filtration is a very powerful purification technology to tackle the problem and ceramic membranes are a growing player in the field. Ceramic membranes are highly stable under severe conditions and their high mechanical stability enables high pressure back-flushing. That's why ceramic membranes really are a viable alternative for the more popular polymeric membranes in water treatment.

A critical issue in the development of effective membrane processes is the decline in system performance due to membrane fouling. This reduces the economic efficiency of the operation and slows down large scale industrial applications of membranes, especially in case of fouling caused by the adsorption of dissolved matter onto the membrane surface and/or into the membrane pores. In today’s practice, optimization of feed pre-treatment and regular physical and chemical cleaning are the standard measurements taken against irreversible fouling.

VITO solution

A sustainable approach was developed to prevent undesired adsorption processes. Ceramic membranes, and particularly silicon and/or metal oxide and hydroxide membranes have been successfully modified, resulting in a significant fouling reduction while maintaining sufficient hydrophilicity to ensure effective water treatment.

Our anti-fouling membranes are particularly suitable and stable for use in filtration in that the grafting with one or more organic moieties prevents - or significantly reduces - fouling of the membranes, compared to non-grafted filtration membranes. A reduction of sensitivity to irreversible fouling of at least 30% to 50% is achieved.

The hydrophilicity is sufficiently guaranteed and the membranes are typically easier to clean, compared to non-grafted membranes and are therefore particularly suitable for use in water filtration.

Here, ceramic membranes, also called inorganic matrices, refer particularly to the presence of metal (or silicon) oxides and/or metal (or silicon) hydroxides and the anti-fouling properties are established through surface grafting of these groups with an organic moiety.

Through careful selection of the organic functional groups, membranes with optimal  flux and antifouling properties were developed.

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