Swansea academics publish major book on membrane modification technology

Two Swansea University academics have written a major book on membrane modification technology which is used in desalination, waste water treatment and in the production of drinking water.

Professor Nidal Hilal, Director of the Centre for Advanced Water Technologies and Environmental Research (CWATER) co-authors the book entitled Membrane Modification: Technology and Applications with Dr Chris Wright from the Centre for NanoHealth.

Membrane modification bookProfessor Hilal said:  “Membrane separation is extremely important for desalination, production of drinking water and waste water treatment. Membrane modification techniques are aimed at increasing the efficiency and performance of membrane separation making them attractive for specific separations.”

The book is especially timely as it follows an industry study by the Freedonia Group that reports that global demand for membranes is projected to increase by 9% annually to US$19.3 billion by 2015, while demand for water desalination products and services is forecast to increase 9.3%  annually to US$13.4 billion by 2015.

Membrane separation is a technology which selectively separates (fractionates) materials via pores and/or minute gaps in the molecular arrangement of a continuous structure. Membrane separations are classified by pore size and by the separation driving force. These classifications include Microfiltration (MF), Ultrafiltration (UF), Nanofiltration (NF), Ion-Exchange (IE), and Reverse Osmosis (RO).

Professor Hilal and Dr Wright’s book presents a comprehensive review of the current developments within membrane separation processes with a focus on process optimisation through control of membrane surface properties for key industrial applications. According to him, membrane processes have many other applications apart from desalination.

Dr Wright said: “In addition to their use in water treatment and desalination, membrane processes are used in pharmaceutical industries to separate valuable medical products as they are capable to separate solid materials such as powders in the size range between one nanmoeter and 10 microns.”

For example microfiltration membranes [MF] have pores between 0.1 microns and 10 microns, ultrafiltration membranes [UF] have pores between five nanometers and 0.1 microns and nanofiltration membranes [NF] have pores between one nanometer and five nanometers.

He concluded: “Thus, the importance and versatility of membrane systems could range from industries such as water treatment and desalination to fuel cells to pharmaceutical production and emerging medical technologies such as tissue engineering.”

The book presents a complete range of membrane modification techniques used to increase efficiency of membrane processes. Modification of different materials and geometrics including flat-sheet, hollow-fiber and nano-fiber membranes, reverse osmosis (RO), membrane distillation (MD), gas separation (GS), pervaporation (PV), and membrane fuel cells (MFC), are extremely important for professionals such as analytical scientists, material engineers, and environmental chemists, as well as chemical and environmental engineers.

Professor Hilal added: “Membrane modification techniques will have significant impact on industry as they will lead to an improved efficiency of membrane processes that offer more products at less cost. More specifically, water treatment industry will benefit from operating better fouling-resistant membranes in RO desalination plants as it will reduce operational fouling problems and therefore reduce cost.”