Sunday, March 25, 2012

No. 469: Water treatment membranes are advancing for a bigger share (March 26, 2012)

Technology
Toray opened up the prospect for a reverse osmosis membrane used in seawater desalination that can halve power consumption. The substantiative experiment starts this year. Toray’s new product has the strong ability to eliminate ions from seawater with high chemical resistance. Using new materials that interlock inorganic substances and organic substances on the molecular level, the company uniformized the holes on the membrane surface depending on the size of water molecule and succeeded in avoiding clogging while preventing ions from permeating through the membrane. The ion removal rate increased 10-20%, and it can effectively permeate only water molecules. In addition, the new membrane is hard to damage because inorganic substances in the new materials protect organic substances from the chlorine chemical used to cleanse the membrane. Accordingly, it can reduce power consumption by 50%. A small module has already been built, and the company is scheduled to confirm the performance between 2012 and 2013.

Kubota also advanced the water treatment membrane. Kubota’s new product doubles the amount of water that it permeates. The company applied fluorinated resin in place of the existing chlorinated polyethylene and successfully created a membrane that has a shape to facilitate the permeation of water. Because the amount per membrane doubles, the number of required membranes can be halved. Should it be applied to a wastewater recycling plant, electricity used to recycle one ton of wastewater will decrease 40% to 0.5 kW. The substantiative experiment starts this year. Japanese companies including Toray, Kubota, Nitto Denko, and Mitsubishi Rayon have a combined share of 60% in the world market. As the 21st century is dubbed as a century of water, the competition in the world market of water treatment membranes is intensifying. 

 Toray's membrane technology 

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