Optimisation of membrane systems and its benefit to water treatment, food processing and medicine

From characterisation and fabrication to control

Atomic Force Microscopy‌‌‌‌Our internationally-recognised research on membrane processes and AFM techniques has had a significant impact in a wide range of industries. This includes process engineering, water and wastewater treatment, health care and pharmaceuticals.

Our research has established Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) as an essential tool for the membrane technologists. We have demonstrated that AFM not only provides unparalleled definition of membrane structure, but also the direct measurement of forces that control the operation of membranes.

Our researchers were the first in the world to apply Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) to membrane separation in the field of process engineering. Membrane optimisation processes have emerged as one of the most significant recent developments in chemical engineering, with a range of applications. Our research has led to significant commercial and health benefits, including:

  • Improved food processing techniques, with induced investment of £11m and operational savings of over £2m.
  • Novel antibacterial alginate therapeutics, now in clinical trials, that have been proven in the treatment of cystic fibrosis, inducing investment of £7m.
  • Exploitation of proprietary membrane modification techniques, with $2m impact.
  • Development of two novel membranes used worldwide in the process industries, generating sales of £500k for each.

Our breakthrough innovations in the development of AFM for application in process engineering allows unrivalled capabilities in terms of characterisation for membrane process optimisation. This has been exploited in the development of membranes now used worldwide in the process industries

Our research has been used internationally for process optimisation in wastewater treatment by Akzo-Nobel and pharmaceutical recovery by GlaxoSmithKline.

The Donan-Steric-Partitioning-Model first developed at Swansea, is recognised as one of the foremost models describing nanofiltration.

We continue to collaborate with industrial partners to maintain the validity of our research. Partners include:

  • Unilever
  • Bulmers
  • Axium (Genzyme)
  • Croda
  • Phytovation
  • Veolia
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • Volac
  • First Milk

Our industrial collaboration has led to novel products, improved processed and increased sales.

Our research with separation processes and AFM characterisation are important within healthcare and the environment.  The latter is evident through our research on nanofiltration for improved water treatment and desalination.

Our research improving performance of membranes and the development of AFM methods for studying biological systems has aided the development of new products including therapeutics and membrane materials for wound healing, both of which are in clinical trials.