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Membrane filtration technology getting cheaper, study finds

By staff writer , 30-Aug-2006

The growing use of membrane filtration technologies for water purification and recycling is being driven in part by the dramatic reductions in cost, according to study by Frost & Sullivan.

Water is often the key base ingredient in the majority of liquid-based cosmetics products, so ensuring water purity has always been a pre-requisite. It also plays an important part in the processing of formulations.

But now water purity is also an important criteria for any company wishing to recycle water in an attempt to meet demands for what is evolving as an increasingly precious and expensive commodity.

The most widely used membrane technologies for water purification around the world are reverse osmosis (RO), ultrafiltration (UF), and microfiltration (MF).

Membrane filtration is able to produce water to meet municipal drinking, wastewater quality requirements, or industrial specifications for water reuse.

Moreover, dramatic reductions in the prices of membrane water treatment technologies in the last few years have further served to promote technology as a cost-effective alternative to water treatment, said Frost & Sullivan technical insights research analyst Vijay Shankar Murthy.

RO, UF, and MF technologies find predominant use in the desalination of brackish water, processing of waste from the fine chemical, personal care, and other process industries.

"Of late, the uptake of these technologies has significantly increased in the water/wastewater treatment markets," Murthy stated in his research.

Competing technologies represent a credible challenge to RO, UF and MF technologies, threatening to slow down adoption rates, he noted.

UF is one of many techniques used in the separation and purification of water and in the biopharmaceutical industry, it competes against several other technologies including membrane absorbers. Membrane absorbers is a new technology based on the same principle as chromatography and promises to be faster than UF.

"In addition to competing technologies being major hindrances to the acceptance of conventional membrane separation techniques, other significant challenges for RO, UF, and MF technologies include membrane efficiency and energy requirements," stated Murthy. "Technology developers will hence need to urgently work at improving the efficiencies of these processes in order to negate the aforementioned challenges and ensure greater acceptance among the many end-user industries."

A number of companies are working on improving the efficiency of membranes used in purifying water. Sanitaire and Aquious - PCI Membrane Systems, two subsidiary units of New York-based ITT Industries, have developed a unique dual stage membrane reactor, Murthy reported.

The technology combines the biological filtration and membrane filtration stages into one unit, helping to reduce the cost of operation by a significant amount.

Meanwhile Koch Membrane Systems, headquartered in Massachusetts, has developed a new proprietary membrane titled Puron.

"This technologically advanced membrane module achieves the twin objective of not only improving the water quality, but also occupying much less space than conventional systems," he stated. "This apart, Koch has also developed a unique UF cartridge, the Targa-10 cartridge, which ensures high water quality while occupying lesser space."

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