New water treatment membrane is more robust and scalable

Posted 15 September 2017

Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit
Nanofiltration membranes used for desalination have been redeveloped with a graphene-based coating, offering a more robust and scalable solution compared to current technologies.  

Developed by researchers at Japan’s Shinshu University and the US Pennsylvania State University ATOMIC Centre, the new technology is expected to offer a sturdier membrane for water treatment solutions in the food production, pharmaceutical and water industries. 

The new approach uses a spray-on technology to coat a mixture of graphene onto a support membrane, creating a stronger hybrid membrane. The graphene coating is also resistant to chlorine, a chemical which is often used to mitigate biofouling in membranes. 

Penn State Physics Professor Mauricio Terrones said the new hybrid withstands intense cross-flow, high pressure and chlorine exposure. 

"Our dream is to create a smart membrane that combines high flow rates, high efficiency, long lifetime [and] self-healing and eliminates bio- and inorganic fouling in order to provide clean water solutions for the many parts of the world where clean water is scarce," Terrones said.

"This work is taking us in that direction."

Through early development the hybrid membrane has been shown to reject 85% of salt and 96% of dye molecules. 

Shinshu University’s Professor Morinobu Endo said the study has brought researchers closer to creating smarter membranes, which could be of great benefit to a range of variable environments.

"This is the first step towards more effective and smart membranes that could self-adapt depending on their environment,” he said.