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About This Technology

Membrane separation eliminates the thermal degradation and chemical changes that can occur in distillation or evaporation. For this reason, membrane separations are suitable for separating temperature-sensitive products. In addition, they are often less energy intensive than conventional separation processes, and the separation systems are modular, allowing very easy scale-up of processes. Eight major membrane-separation processes—microfiltration, ultrafiltration, nanofiltration, reverse osmosis, electrodialysis, electrodeionization, gas separation, and pervaporation—are in use in such application areas as desalination, water purification (drinking water, wastewater, and ultrapure water), chemical and food processing, biopharmaceutical manufacturing, drug delivery, drug discovery, bioseparations, and medical treatment.

Synthetic membranes constitute a growing market and are providing enhanced separation capabilities in a wide variety of industries. Companies have invested in developing membrane-separation processes to perform separations that other, more conventional separation processes—such as evaporation, distillation, or extraction—cannot perform or to perform separations whose membrane processes are more efficient. Such investments can result in the creation of new business opportunities as costs for membrane systems come down or as new membrane-separation techniques become technically feasible.

New membranes will operate under a wider range of temperatures and chemical environments and will provide more selective separations than are now possible. Increased global concern for the environment, demand for clean water, and energy efficiency are likely to result in increased opportunities for membranes.