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Membrane &

Separation Technology News


A BCC, Inc. Publication • 25 Van Zant St., Norwalk, CT 06855-1781 • 203/853-4266 • FAX: 203/853-0348

Volume 23, Number 10 July 2005

ELECTROCHEMICAL
In This Issue…
ELECTROCHEMICAL ........... 1
LINX Wastes
REVERSE OSMOSIS ............ 2 Less Water

ULTRAFILTRATION ............. 5
Pionetics is commercializing the LINX 120 system, a home drink-
ing water purification product that wastes less water than residen-
tial RO units and allows users to adjust the water’s taste to suit
GAS SEPARATION ............... 6
individual preference. Designed to replace bulky RO systems, the
compact LINX 120 is the first product based on Pionetics’ patented
BIOMEDICAL AND LINX technology, a process that removes 90% of total dissolved
BOMEMEBRANE ............... 7 solids (TDS) and numerous contaminants, using only clean electric
power and proprietary ion exchange membranes.
INDUSTRY INSIGHT ........... 8
Pionetics’ Founder and Chief Technical Officer Eric Nyberg tells
NON-SEPARATING .............. 12 MST that the point of use (POU) purifier is the first residential water
system to use electrically regenerable ion exchange. The water-
INDUSTRY NEWS ................ 13 splitting, or bipolar, membranes consist of a cation exchange layer
bound to an anion exchange layer. Similar membranes already are
WHO’S WHO IN MEMBRANE in industrial use for converting aqueous salt solutions into acids
TECHNOLOGY ............... 14 and bases without chemical addition. At its most basic, the LINX
unit comprises two cells, each cell having two electrodes, a spiral
wound ion exchange membrane cartridge located between the
electrodes, and a water inlet and outlet. The system additionally
Senior Editor: Susan Hanft
Tel: 512/303-6502
comprises a power supply, a flow detector, and sediment and carbon
E-mail: shanft@cebridge.net filters.

Lead Production Editor: Jon Gomes The LINX technology removes ions, for example sodium and nitrate,
from water flowing past the membranes. Sodium ions exchange
BCC Newsletter Group
Editorial Director: Alan Hall
with hydrogen ions held in the cation exchange layer; nitrate ions
VP — Operations: Marc Favreau exchange with hydroxide ions in the anion exchange layer. Deion-
Regional Editor: Dr. Robert Butler ized water, the combined product of hydrogen and hydroxide ions in
President: Louis Naturman the solution, then exits the system. The rate of ion removal is
greatly accelerated by the application of sufficient voltage to the two
Copyright 2005 Business Communications electrodes. When the cartridge’s capacity for ions is depleted,
Co., Inc. Norwalk, CT 06855. Reproduction of
any material in this newsletter is strictly
electrical regeneration is achieved by reversing the polarity of the
forbidden without express permission of the two electrodes.
Publisher. However, authorization to photo-
copy items is granted by BCC, provided that Pionetics’ membranes have good selectivity for many ionic species
the appropriate fee is paid directly to Copy- that worry consumers. Because the membranes are regenerated in
right Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive,
the hydrogen and hydroxide forms, they are especially effective for
Danvers, MA 01923, USA.
removing the weak acids arsenic (III) and arsenic (V). (RO cannot
ISSN: 0720-8483 remove arsenic [III], sometimes present in deep well water sources.)
Nitrates and nitrites are extracted selectively via the quaternary
Membrane & Separation Technology News July 2005

ammonium ion exchange materials used in manufacturing the


BUSINESS membrane. Perchlorate, permanganate, chromate, and all dis-
solved heavy metals also are extracted by selective ion exchange.
GE, Pall Expand Alliance.
GE Infrastructure, Water & Compared to RO, which wastes five to seven gallons of water for each
Process Technologies gallon of drinking water generated, the LINX purifier uses only one
(Trevose, PA) and Pall Corp. half gallon of water for every gallon produced, regardless of feed
(East Hills, NY) are expand- water. The system does not require a storage tank because the
ing their strategic alliance to cartridge contains a large enough membrane surface area to
bring membrane technologies produce water at a rate of 0.5 gallons per minute. In addition to
for desalination, water reuse permitting a more compact system, the elimination of the storage
and municipal water treat- tank removes a potential breeding ground for bacteria.
ment to the global market-
place. Building upon a Janu- The LINX system delivers nearly twenty times the flow rate of RO
ary 2004 agreement, which without a tank (0.5 gpm compared to 0.03gpm at 60psi), generates
integrated GE’s RO and NF one-fourth as much wastewater, and works efficiently at low water
systems and services with pressures, where other purifiers can require booster pumps. Sys-
Pall’s MF and UF technolo- tem operating costs are low, because power is consumed only when
gies, the new alliance paves water flows, during deionization and the short chemical-free regen-
the way for collaboration on eration cycle. The LINX consumes only about $10 per year of
the development and sale of electrical power.
new proprietary technologies.
The POU system includes a feature called Dial-a-Taste, which
Millipore to Market 3M’s allows users to select a TDS level to suit individual taste or needs.
SPE Plates. Millipore Corp. Desired TDS can be preset via a feedback loop between a conductiv-
(Billerica, MA) and 3M Co. ity sensor in the product water stream and the power supply. This
(St. Paul, MN) have entered allows the membrane’s ion extraction rate to be increased or
into a supply and distribu- decreased with incremental voltage changes. Nyberg says the
tion agreement for 96-well average American prefers water at 60ppm TDS. For making coffee,
Multi-SPE Extraction Plates a TDS level of 150ppm is preferred by coffee producers; while
featuring 3M’s Empore mem- consumers wishing to increase calcium or magnesium levels for
branes. Empore membranes health reasons might choose a TDS of 250ppm.
incorporate solid phase sor-
bent particles within a net- The purifier is fully automated so that drinking water is delivered
work of PTFE fibrils to pro- on demand without interruption. Indicator lights display selected
duce clean extracts, extend TDS and notify the user when membrane cartridges need replac-
LC-MS/MS column life and ing. The lifetime of an average cartridge is estimated at about 1,000
decrease instrument down- gallons in hard water, enough for a year or more of average use.
time. The plates also mini-
mize solvent usage and elimi- The LINX 120 system is available now for evaluation by residential
nate evaporation/reconstitu- water treatment contractors and distributors. LINX technology has
tion steps. Under the terms further application for industrial and commercial use, from whole-
of the agreement, the plates, house purification to industrial chemical and metals recovery.
developed by 3M, will be
branded and distributed by Contact: Akash Trivedi, Business Development Manager, Pionetics,
Millipore for life science 151H Old County Road, San Carlos, CA 94070; Tel: 650/551-0250,
sample preparation applica- x 142, Fax: 650/551-0251.
tions. SPE is the preferred
method for isolating and con-
centrating low levels of an-
alytes by eliminating sub- REVERSE OSMOSIS
stances that contribute to
and interfere with mass spec-
trometry signal detection. SPE GrahamTek Modules
products typically are used in
the environmental and bio-
Refine Desalination
analytical sample preparation
markets. South Africa-based GrahamTek Systems has linked a number of
technical improvements: a larger diameter module, two-element

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Membrane & Separation Technology News July 2005

pressure vessel, an integrated flow distributor, applied electromag-


netic fields, energy recovery devices and a modular skid platform, Polyfuel Plans IPO. Polyfuel
into an integrated RO system that achieves higher flux rates, (Mountain View, CA) plans to
reduced fouling, enhanced membrane life, diminished chemical go public on the Alternative
usage and lower operating costs. Investment Market of the
London Stock Exchange. The
According to founder William Graham, GrahamTek, the only mem- AIM is considered a step to-
brane manufacturer in Africa, was the first to market with a large wards main stock market list-
diameter module. The 15-inch by 50-inch element with a surface ing for small and growing com-
area of 1,700ft2 is equivalent to four conventional 8” x 40” mem- panies. Polyfuel manufac-
brane elements. Membranes are manufactured specifically for tures membranes for both
different raw water source types. A polymer GrahamTek membrane methanol and hydrogen fuel
with a pore size of 0.0002µm is used to process seawater. The spiral cells using technology de-
wound element is constructed of 46 leaves, each 55 inches long. signed to make the cells more
powerful, less expensive and
A flow distributor is attached on the inlet side and an anti-telescop- withstand higher tempera-
ing device fitted to the rear before the membrane is placed inside tures. In April, Polyfuel an-
the pressure vessel. The flow distributor is incorporated at the front nounced that it had devel-
end of the membrane spiral to generate higher flux and better oped membranes suitable for
recovery. Feed water is directed towards the center of the spiral manufacturing using exist-
membrane, where lower velocities are found, by placing many small- ing processes for fluorocar-
angled inlet holes, positioned in concentric circle, on the flow bon membranes, such as Du
distributor’s surface. This changes the laminar flow of the feed water Pont’s Nafion. Under British
under pressure, causing it to become highly turbulent and create regulations, Polyfuel cannot
micro-bubbles that scour the membrane surface of foulants, and speak widely about the IPO
improve crossflow shear force and mass transfer through the mem- plans. However, the company
brane. Another advantage to the flow distributor is lengthening the is reportedly hoping to raise
intervals between maintenance backwashes, to 60% less than that $21.8 million from the offer-
needed in conventional plants. ing, bringing its value to $72.8
million.
Each pressure vessel in a GrahamTek system houses two modules.
Up to nine pressure vessels can be mounted onto a single fully Siemens Invests in inge
operational pre-assembled skid platform. The modular design al- AG. Through its venture capi-
lows skids to be linked together to provide plants of varying capaci- tal division, Siemens (Munich,
ties. In a conventional vessel, users would need up to seven Germany) has invested in inge
AG, developer of Multibore
membranes to achieve an equivalent membrane area. The re-
capillary fiber UF membranes
duced requirement of two membrane elements per pressure vessel
and modules for water treat-
results in less pressure drop per vessel.
ment. Since its founding, inge
AG has tripled its turnover
The electro magnetic device, a conductor wound into the pressure
yearly. By 2008, the company
vessel at strategic points to establish an electromagnetic field
is aiming for annual sales of
throughout the length of each vessel, prevents fouling on the
more than $100 million. Be-
membrane surface by inhibiting active crystal formation. Water sides Siemens Venture Capi-
within the feed channel is surrounded by the magnetic field, which tal, four additional investors
generates movement in the direction of the concentrated stream. are supporting inge: SAM
Ions within the concentrated stream become electrically charged, Sustainability Private Equity
inducing the feed channel to act as a semiconductor moving forward Fund LP, Sustainable Perfor-
in the direction of the magnetic field. The calibrated harmonic field mance Group N.V. RWE Ven-
disorientates the formation of active crystal growth by separating ture Capital Funds and
chemical bonds, and can be optimized by controlling the applied Taprogge Watertech. Total
electric current. investment is slightly more
than $7 million.
GrahamTek’s RO+ 403 Series incorporates the 15” diameter mod-
ule, the 203 Series is designed to operate with standard 8” diameter Landec Forms Tech Divi-
elements. Two energy recovery devices are available for use with sion. Landec Corp.’s (Menlo
GrahamTek systems depending on the size of the plant. Power Park, CA) food subsidiary,
savings range from 37% to 42%. Both Series 403 and Series 203 Apio, Inc., has launched a
products arrive pre-assembled and skid-mounted.

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Membrane & Separation Technology News July 2005

Contact: William Graham, GrahamTek Systems, Graham House,


new technology division to 12 Gerber Boulevard, Gants Plaza, Strand, South Africa 7140; Tel:
advance sales of its +27 21 853 0699, Fax: +27 21 853 0692, email: info@
BreatheWay membrane- grahamtek.com.
based food packaging.
BreatheWay packaging uses
membranes to regulate oxy-
gen and carbon dioxide levels
Hydranautics Launches
within a produce package to Five Improved Products
maintain optimum atmo-
spheres for vegetables and Hydranautics has added five RO/NF elements to its lines of
fruit, and extend their shelf products for desalination, municipal water production and indus-
life. The membrane also com- trial water treatment. The new generations of membrane mod-
pensates for changes in tem- ules offer improvements such as enhanced salt rejection, higher
perature that might be en- boron removal, lower energy consumption and reduced operating
countered during shipping costs.
and storage. The new divi-
sion will expand the use of • The Low Fouling Composite LFC3-LD (Low Differential pressure)
BreatheWay packaging to veg- possesses a neutral surface charge that reduces fouling in waste-
etables and fruit not sold by water and surface water with high fouling potential for reuse and
Apio and for higher volume reclaim applications. The LFC3-LD incorporates a thicker brine
applications such as ship- spacer to create a lower fouling membrane that requires less
ping containers and pallet- frequent cleaning, while maintaining high permeate flow. The
size uses.
LFC3-LD provides 11,000 gallons per day of flow at 99.7% nominal
salt rejection, and is well suited for the treatment of difficult
RGU Spins Off Second Gas
municipal and industrial feedwaters that typically require signifi-
Processing Firm. Robert
cant pretreatment. LFC3-LD elements are 8 inches in diameter, 40
Gordon University (RGU, Ab-
inches long and incorporate 400ft2 of membrane area.
erdeen, Scotland) has incor-
porated the second of its spin
• Hydranautics’ improved ESPA (Energy Saving Polyamide)-B high
off companies established to
boron rejection membranes offer a new option for communities
commercialize inorganic gas
separation membranes. The
with high boron levels or for manufacturers with boron contamina-
first startup, Clear Process,
tion issues. ESPA-B provides 8,600 gallons per day of flow at 99.2%
Ltd., was founded in late 2004
nominal salt rejection and 96% boron rejection, making it the
to commercialize hybrid ce-
highest boron rejecting, low-pressure element in the industry.
ramic membranes for the re-
Each module contains 400ft2 of membrane area and measures 8
covery of carbon dioxide from inches in diameter and 40 inches in length. The ESPA-B is ideal for
gas processing and power use with Hydranautics’ new SWC5 elements for second pass filtra-
plant flue gas. The second tion in seawater and brackish water RO plants with stringent boron
spin off, Gas2, Ltd., was es- rejection requirements.
tablished recently to market
catalytic ceramic membranes • The SWC5 combines high flow rates with superior salt and boron
for producing synthesis gas rejection at low operating pressures. The SWC5 provides 8,000
via partial oxidation of hydro- gallons per day of flow at 99.8% nominal salt rejection and 92% boron
carbon feedstocks. rejection. The 400ft2 SWC5 elements are available as 8-inch
diameter and 40-inch long modules.
TriSep Joins Competitors
with Price Hike. Due to in- • The latest generation of ESNA (Energy Savings Nanofiltration)
creases in oil prices and ma- technology, the ESNA1-LF2, is designed to provide high rejection of
terials produced from oil: natural organic materials and moderate rejection of total hardness.
polymers, plastics, and ad- The modules operate at pressures of less than 100 psi, a feature
hesives that make up the that lowers energy requirements and cuts costs. The ESNA1-LF2
majority of spiral wound ele- provides 7,800 gallons per day of flow at 80% nominal calcium chlo-
ment raw materials, TriSep ride rejection. Permeate from ESNA1-LF2 elements is well below
Corp. (Goleta, CA) has an- current EPA regulations for trihalomethane and haloacetic acid
nounced a 5% price increase levels as required for U.S. municipal drinking water. The 400ft2
on all membrane products ESNA1-LF2 membrane elements are available in an 8-inch diam-
eter and 40-inch long configuration.

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Membrane & Separation Technology News July 2005

• The new ESPA2+ features exceptional salt rejection at lower pre-


ssures and higher rejection rates. ESPA2+ membranes are rec- effective June 1. TriSep has
ommended for commercial, industrial and larger groundwater been absorbing increases in
municipal projects where high active area membrane surface raw material prices during the
area translates to fewer elements and lower capital costs. The last 12 months, but now is
ESPA2+ offers a flow rate of 12,000 gallons per day while maintain- passing the increases along
ing a nominal salt rejection of 99.6% and boron rejection of 93%. to customers. TriSep joins
Each 8-inch by 40-inch ESPA2+ element contains 440 ft2 of RO membrane makers Dow
membrane area. and Hydranautics, which
raised prices earlier in the
year.
Contact: Serenity Gardner, Marketing Manager, Hydranautics,
Inc., 401 Jones Rd., Oceanside, CA 92054; Tel: 760/901-2529, Fax:
760/901-2578.
PROJECTS

Algiers Project Largest in


ULTRAFILTRATION Africa. GE Infrastructure,
Water & Process Technolo-
gies (Trevose, PA), the Alge-
Pre-Engineered Systems rian Government, the Over-
seas Private Investment
Target Small Communities Corp. and the Algerian En-
ergy Co. (AEC) have an-
Koch Membrane Systems, Inc. (KMS) introduced an expanded line nounced plans to build
of packaged HF (hollow fiber) UF systems. The pre-engineered Africa’s largest seawater RO
systems are designed to provide a compact and cost-effective desalination plant. The
solution for small communities requiring easily installed potable Hamma build-own-operate
water production capabilities to meet the requirements of the Safe project will supply 25% of
Drinking Water Act. Algeria’s capital city’s popu-
lation with 53mgd of desper-
HF series systems now are available in five models, ranging in ately needed drinking water.
capacity from 10,000gpd to approximately 800,000gpd. Skid mounted, Because of the scarcity of
space efficient and self-contained, the units are installed easily, clean water, the residents of
requiring only that the membranes be added upon delivery. Com- Algiers currently receive wa-
pared to conventional multi-media filtration systems; the smallest ter one out of every three
model, the HF-4, has a footprint of only 54 square feet, and the days. Funded by GE (70%)
largest model, the HF-18, occupies only 200 square feet of floor and the AEC (30%), Hamma
space. Depending upon the production needs of each customer, the will be the first private RO
packaged units can include from 4 to 18 membrane cartridges. desalination drinking water
project in Algeria. The project
With the proper pretreatment, the packaged UF systems can be also will be the largest mem-
used for a range of applications including backwash water recovery, brane desalination plant in
iron and manganese removal, arsenic removal, and color and taste Africa, as well as one of the
removal. The small pore size of KMS’ UF membranes provides largest desalination plants in
drinking water with turbidity levels of less than 0.1 NTU and act as the entire world. Construc-
a physical barrier to viruses and bacteria, Giardia lamblia cysts, and tion on Hamma has begun
parasites like Cryptosporidium. A properly operated HF system and is expected to last 24
prevents microorganism breakthrough to the product water side, months.
regardless of how long the system is in service and despite any
variations in feed water quality. Olympic Village to Reuse
Wastewater. Zenon Environ-
Each packaged system includes all equipment and instrumentation mental Inc. (Oakville,
needed to run the unit. Standard components include a painted steel Ontario, Canada) has received
frame, membranes, control cabinet, touch screen panel display, two a $5 million order to supply
pumps with variable frequency drive and a cleaning tank. All modes ZeeWeed membranes for ter-
of system operation are controlled using a programmable logic tiary wastewater treatment
controller. To verify the system is operating properly, a daily mem-
at China’s Olympic Village.
brane integrity test is built into every unit. KOCHSAFE integrity

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Membrane & Separation Technology News July 2005

testing can identify one broken fiber out of hundreds of thousands.


China has begun a massive
program to improve its infra- Contact: Koch Membrane Systems, 850 Main St., Wilmington, MA
structure as the country pre- 01887-3388; Tel: 888/677-5624, Fax: 978/657-5208.
pares to host the 2008 Olym-
pic Games in Beijing. Among
the initiatives is the treat- GAS SEPARATION
ment and reuse of municipal
sewage to relieve Beijing’s
growing water shortage. The Mobile Inerting Units
membranes will treat second- Prevent Mine Explosions
ary effluent from the Qinghe
Wastewater Treatment Plant Air Liquide’s new Floxal inert gas generating system is an effective
near the Olympic Village. mobile nitrogen membrane unit that prevents gas explosions in
Treated effluent will be re- underground mines. Compared to traditional boiler systems used in
used within the village, pro- mine gas inerting, the membrane units do not need cooling water, use
viding water for lagoons and diesel fuel or emit carbon monoxide, clear environmental advantages.
ponds, and for landscape irri-
gation. Work on the project is The process, which is based on Air Liquide’s Medal polymer hollow
underway and is slated for fiber gas separation membranes, has been implemented at
completion in 12 to 14 months. Australia’s Dartbrook, German Creek, Oaky North and Oaky No.1
After the Olympics, the gov- underground coalmines. Earlier in the year, a Floxal unit was used
ernment plans to continue at Kestrel Mine in Queensland’s Bowen Basin to clear the mine
operating the plant and to sell roadway when gas readings approached the explosive range. The
the water for either irrigation first two installed mobile units can clear underground at 500m3/hr
or as toilet flush water. with 97% inert gas purity. Since then, Air Liquide has increased
the capacity of its Floxal systems to 1,934m3/hr specifically for
Sri Lanka Installing RO for longwall mining applications.
Water Reuse. Sewing thread
manufacturer American & Efird In longwall mining, a coal seam is divided into parallel blocks
Lanka Private Ltd. has com- intersected by underground roadways that allow access for mining
missioned Sri Lanka’s first equipment. As coal is mined, roof supports are moved forward
state-of-the-art RO wastewa- leaving the region behind these braces unsupported. When the roof
ter recycling unit. The new RO
collapses into this area, called the goaf, methane gas is generated.
unit from GE Osmonics
If methane gas concentration in the ventilation air reaches 5%, it
(Minnetonka, MN) will treat
forms an explosive gas mixture. Because the gas presents a danger
wastewater for reuse in the
to underground workers, every mine must develop strategies to
manufacturing process to con-
ensure that gas concentrations in the roadways are maintained
serve water and reduce dis-
below 1% to 2%. Inerting the goaf with nitrogen gas is one way to
charge to the environment.
enhance mine safety and protect miners.
Generon Contracts for Ni-
Producing inerting nitrogen at ambient temperature without co-
trogen System. Generon IGS
generating CO or acids is a safety aspiration of coalmine managers.
(Houston, TX) will install a
Air Liquide’s Floxal units filter compressed air, heated to a constant
skidded membrane nitrogen
temperature of 45ºC, across the Medal hollow fibers separating
generator at Mytek Inter-
nitrogen from oxygen and other components of atmospheric air.
national’s plastic molding
Parameters such as pressure and temperature influence the
plant in Tijuana, Mexico. The
Generon HP 6500 includes a
concentration of the inert gas. The system is capable of producing
membrane unit that will pro-
nitrogen at 99.9% purity, but for coalmine applications, the best
vide an uninterrupted supply
results are achieved at a purity of 97%.
of 98.5% to 99.9% purity ni-
trogen to the molding ma-
Traditional nitrogen system mine inerting in Australia relies on
chines at flows up to 2,400 combustion to generate boiler exhaust as an inert gas. In contrast
SCFH. The turnkey package to the boiler system, which produces nitrogen at about 14.5psi, the
incorporates a 35 HP air com- Floxal unit produces nitrogen at a pressure of 130psi, which allows
pressor with a three-stage the gas to be distributed throughout the mine while the unit is
placed near the power source. Using a 6” pipe, nitrogen produced by

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Membrane & Separation Technology News July 2005

the Floxal unit can cover up to 57 miles; gas distributed in a 4”


polypropylene conduit can travel up to 8 miles. booster after the membrane
unit, pressuring the nitrogen
While boiler systems use water and large volumes of expensive up to 5,000psi. Nitrogen is
diesel fuel, up to 1600 gallons daily, Air Liquide’s 1934m3/hr Floxal used in the molding process
system requires only 805kW of electricity for efficient operation. In to enable even pressure dur-
addition, membrane-based gas inerting can prevent hazards to ing extrusion and prevent
underground workers from the presence of carbon monoxide pro- oxidation of the plastic, leav-
duced by diesel-powered generators. ing a clean smooth finish.
On-site generated nitrogen
For preventive maintenance, the Floxal system is capable of oper- offers cost savings, less
ating remotely and without an operator in permanent attendance, safety concerns and fewer
by using a tele-monitoring system that measures nitrogen flow and operational issues compared
performance. to handling heavy high-pres-
sure gas cylinders or cryo-
Contact: Air Liquide Medal, 305 Water St., Newport, DE 19804; Tel: genic liquids.
302/225-1100, Fax: 302/225-0411.

LEGISLATION
BIOMEDICAL & BIOMEMBRANE
Desalination Act Intro-
duced in Senate. Legisla-
tion to increase the federal
Pseudo Pores Advance government’s role in build-
Study of Living Cells ing RO desalination plants
has been introduced for the
A team of electrical and computer engineers at the University of first time in the U.S. Senate,
Wisconsin-Madison has devised a method for investigating living cell and has been re-introduced
systems by embedding quantum dots, inorganic semiconductor in the U.S. House of Repre-
nanocrystals, which form pseudo pores in artificial biological mem- sentatives. If passed, Sen-
branes. By observing how the tiny crystals move through the mem- ate bill S. 1016, “The Desali-
brane layers, the researchers can examine biological systems on the nation Water Supply Short-
molecular level. A discovery could lead to new possibilities for ma- age Prevention Act of 2005”
nipulating, imaging and understanding the inner workings of cells. would establish a program
within the DOE to provide
Energy Assistance Payments
Measuring only millionths of a millimeter, quantum dots are so
to desalination projects fol-
small that the addition or subtraction of electrons changes the dots’
lowing a competitive bidding
properties. Electrical and Computer Engineering Professors Dan van
process. Financing would
der Weide and Robert Blick with researchers Sujatha Ramachandran
come from the DOE’s renew-
and George Kumar, found that by applying voltages to a solution of
able energy program with au-
quantum dots and membranes similar to those of living cells, the dots
thorization to spend $200
would be pressed into the membranes forming rings, which in turn
million over a ten-year pe-
act as membrane pores. The artificial pores then could be used to riod. The bill has been re-
examine living systems to confirm cell behavior that previously has ferred to the Senate Com-
been theorized, but not directly observed. mittee on Energy and Natu-
ral Resources.
“To get a feeling of why this is important,” says Blick, “you have to
understand that each of our cell membranes has specific pores in
them that regulate the flow of ions in and out.” Through these ions,
cells build up electric potential and communicate with other cells,
FUNDING
performing signal transduction as well as determining how chemi-
cals react in the body. For example, when caffeine enters a cell, it DOE Backing NCAT H2 Re-
stimulates the opening and closing of these ion channels. Using the search. The DOE has awarded
quantum dots to form artificial pores enhances the flow of ions and grants to eight institutions
can be controlled from the outside via voltage. for energy research through
the Historically Black Col-
The Wisconsin team initially set out to use the dots to tag mem- leges and Universities and
brane pores for easier visualization and measurement of the

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Membrane & Separation Technology News July 2005

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

New Innovative UF Technologies for Membranes, Modules and Operation


By P. Berg, inge AG, Flurstrasse 17, 86926 Greifenberg, Germany, Tel: 49 (0) 8192 997 700,
Fax: 49 (0) 8192 997 999, email: pberg@inge.ag

T he market for ultrafiltration is changing: requir-


ing higher reliability in operation and lower
operating and investment costs to open up new
each of the seven capillaries (especially the central one) will
be fed the same amount of water. In contrast, the active
submerged membranes may be found on the outer side.
market segments. To match these requirements, new
membrane materials have to be combined with innova- Multibore has a molecular weight cutoff of approximately
tive production technologies and thoroughly engineered 100kD, which corresponds to a median pre size of about
module design. 10nm. Despite the small pores, the membrane has a pure
water permeability of approximately 1,000l/m2/h. Fur-
Because of the long history in research and operational thermore, the membrane is highly resistant to cleaning
experience inside the inge group, we have managed to chemicals, such as acids, bases, and oxidizing agents
introduce new production technologies to membrane such as hydrogen peroxide and chlorine.
production, significantly reducing the risk of fiber
breakage. We have developed a submerged technology Hydrodynamic Optimization
that is able to fulfill all requirements of wastewater
treatment plant operators. And we have re-engineered In order to allow the high permeability of the membranes
the design of both external and submerged modules, to within the modules and guarantee an efficient cleaning
lower operating costs by improving the efficiency of of the membrane during backwash, a very low pressure
backwash and cleaning. loss within the membrane bundles on the permeate side
is of great importance. Thus, it can be guaranteed that
No Risk of Fiber Breakage each capillary has the same transmembrane pressure,
and no area within the module will receive inferior
In principle, ultrafiltration provides enormous elimina- cleaning during the backwash. As a consequence, the
tion rates for particles, bacteria and even viruses, backwash period also can be abbreviated to a large extent,
independent of the water quality. This means that increasing the recovery of the whole process of filtration.
highly contaminated waters can be treated effectively to
produce safe drinking water. To minimize pressure loss between the capillaries, the
flow velocity of the water should be constant at every
To ensure these removal rates, leakage of capillary fiber position in the module. The inge modules enable this by
membranes must be eliminated completely. In addition means of a special module housing as well as the unique
to high chemical and biological resistance, the mem- arrangement of capillaries in the module.
brane fiber has to be of extraordinary stability to tolerate
the backwash process. This is especially important When inserting the capillaries into the tubular housings,
when operating large water treatment plants transport- two different types of assembly are used. In the first case,
ing large volumes of water. the filtrate collection is accomplished with a central
collection tube located in the middle of the capillary
inge AG and S. Search B.V. have therefore developed a bundle. Another option is to collect the filtrate from an
capillary membrane which is completely fail-safe. This outer annular gap. In order to achieve an equal distribu-
extraordinary stability mainly results from the use of a tion rate between the capillaries, the cross-sectional area
stronger membrane material on a polyethersulfone base that has to be flowed through should be enlarged to the
and the honeycomb structure of the seven single same extent as the flow volume. This result can be
capillary fibers combined into one fiber. Called Multibore, achieved only by using the construction with the outer
the structure may be used for outside-in filtration. For annular gap, as the use of central filtrate collection will
submerged membrane technology, e.g. the treatment of lead to high velocities between the capillaries and thus
wastewater in outside-in mode, capillaries typically are to substantial pressure losses. For this reason, the inge
arranged in parallel like a membrane plate or sheet. modules are produced according to the second option
with the annular gap construction.
In the Multibore membrane design, the inner layer of
the seven capillaries represents the very thin active The outer annular gap between the membrane bundle
membrane surface. The outstanding stability of the walls and the pressure vessel, which is used for filtrate
in between the seven capillaries is secured by a continu- collection, is built with a perforated tube. To optimize the
ous foam structure located directly under the active distribution of water within the annular gap, the upper
surface. The pore size of this foam structure is larger than part located at the permeate connection is not perforated.
the active membrane surface, a fact that guarantees that Thus, a radial flow distribution can be guaranteed,

8
Membrane & Separation Technology News July 2005

which is especially important for a backwash conducted separately and vertically, providing numerous advan-
with higher volumes. The perforation underneath then tages:
provides an optimal axial distribution. Small openings
right under the potting material allow a complete de- Due to the fact that a complete aeration and de-aeration
aeration of the vertically installed module on the permeate is possible, integrity testing can be done in a few min-
side. The optimal solution to minimize pressure loss in utes.
the capillary bundle and to control the flow distribution
is a regular arrangement of capillaries with defined Complete aeration guarantees that air cushions do not
spaces. To avoid a complete compaction of the capillaries arise on either the feed side or permeate side. Therefore,
during backwash, the capillaries should also be fixed each capillary contributes to filtration and backwash.
and stabilized. One method to achieve the regular (Air on the feed or permeate side of the module might
arrangement of the capillaries is the construction of arise through the outgassing of supersaturated water,
“membrane grids.” Parallel membrane fibers are used to e.g. some ground waters or biologically active waters, or
build one of these grids. Two of them are then crossed during integrity testing.)
(Figure 1) and spiral wound, thus building an ordered
structure of capillaries with regularly defined spaces. The complete dewatering of modules installed vertically
on the rack provides the possibility of dry installing or
Figure 1 uninstalling the modules by one person. Each module
can be handled separately without having to remove
Multibore Grid other modules first. The parallel inflow of the modules
provides a constant flux through the capillaries. In
addition, the transport distance for removing the cake
layer from the membrane is very short. Between the
racks, a space of less than one meter is sufficient for
comfortable module handling. Additional pressure ves-
sels are not necessary.

Operation Modes Cut Costs

When operating filtration modules, the most important


factor, besides a constant pressure distribution on the
permeate side, is an overflow at each position of the
capillaries (crossflow). If crossflow is carried out by
recirculation using an additional pump, or one that is
The wound grids are put into the perforated inner tube, larger-dimensioned, the result will be far higher capital
which is then inserted into the outer module body. As and operating costs. Therefore, inge modules are con-
described above, a circular annular gap in between the structed so that also in dead end mode an overflow at
outer body and the inner tube is created, which is used each position in the module can be adjusted.
for permeate collection as well as the distribution of
backwash water. During filtration this is achieved by changing the feed
between the bottom and top connection. During back-
The grid, combined with the above-described module wash, the overflow is realized by alternating the collec-
construction, achieves a hydrodynamic ideal result: the tion of the concentrate. Furthermore, this module con-
ratio of volumetric stream of water that flows in the struction enables a forward flush that can be carried out
spaces between the fibers changes in the same ratio as before and after the backwash. With the first forward
the passed area of the circle segment. To obtain a flush, the loose pollutants can be rinsed off, thus
filtration unit that is immediately ready for connection, making the following backwash more effective. The
end caps are assembled at both open ends for the feed second forward flush, carried out after the backwash
water inlet and backwash water outlet. Thus, no addi- period, is intended to remove the cake layer that has
tional pressure vessels are necessary. Furthermore, no been released by the backwash. Besides better cleaning
sealing has to be put between the raw water and the performance, this operation allows the installation of a
filtrate side, which guarantees an absolute barrier of the smaller permeate tank and substantially increases re-
module when purifying the water. (The inner tube is covery because less filtrate has to be used for backwashing.
glued with epoxy to the housing tube.)
With this method, filtrate has only to be used for 15
To be able to assemble the end caps easily and without seconds. During the remaining 30 seconds of forward
tools, no screws are used for fixation. Instead, the end flush, raw water is used. In principle, operation in
caps can be assembled and disassembled simply with crossflow mode also is possible. When filtering stronger
the aid of a flexible plastic bar. polluted raw water, including high turbidity water, the
robust Multibore membranes allow a so-called “purge
Rack Construction operation” to prevent blocking of the capillaries. During
the purge mode, the opposite valve is opened for seconds
The construction of the module permits a space saving, at intervals of some minutes, thus generating a crossflow
cost-efficient assembly of the rack. Modules are mounted cleaning.

9
Membrane & Separation Technology News July 2005

current/voltage relationship. Because quantum dots can be en-


Other Minority Institutions coded with different colors, they are useful as fluorescent labels for
program. Carried out under staining cells. Their resistance to photobleaching and their physi-
DOE’s Office of Fossil En- cal size of less than 10 nanometers are making them increasingly
ergy, the projects will be man- popular in numerous biomedical applications. According to Blick,
“What we found was that quantum dots formed their own pores,
aged by DOE’s National En-
which in the long run could mean that we could combine optical
ergy Technology Laboratory. activity and readout with direct-current recording of cellular activ-
Grant recipients at North ity.”
Carolina A&T State Univer-
sity (NCAT, Greensboro, NC) Because these artificial pores elicit bursts of current in the
will develop a composite mem- artificial membranes, the team believes quantum dots could per-
brane based on palladium and form similarly in other excitable cells such as neurons and muscles,
palladium-silver alloy for hy- and looks forward to understanding how the dots behave in vivo in
drogen separation. The re- excitable cells. The researchers will look next into properties that
searchers will use steam re- cause the artificial pores to open and close.
forming of methanol by equi-
Contact: Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, Uni-
librium shift to demonstrate
versity of Wisconsin-Madison, 2414 Engineering Hall, 1415 Engi-
the membrane as a membrane neering Drive, Madison, WI 53706-1691; Tel: 608/262-3840, Fax:
reactor/separator. Used as a 608/262-1267. Dan van der Weide, 1439 Engineering Hall, 1415
fuel processor, the system Engineering Drive, Madison, WI 53706-1691; Tel: 608/265-6561,
will provide high-purity hy- Fax: 815/371-3407, email: danvdw@engr.wisc.edu.
drogen for use in fuel cells
and could be integrated into
the fuel cell system for ve- BioLung Replicates
hicles. The DOE’s share of Normal Gas Exchange
the 36-month project is
$199,996. NovaLung GmbH is commercializing the first total artificial lung
able to fully replace the gas exchange capabilities of the human
lung using blood provided by the human heart. Key to the BioLung
RESEARCH pumpless artificial lung is a tight heparin-coated, silicon-based
hollow fiber diffusion membrane.
Center to Advance Desali-
nation Process. The Univer- NovaLung already has demonstrated the safety and feasibility of a
sity of California’s (Los Ange- pumpless lung device with its Novalung Interventional Lung Assist
les, CA) Henry Samueli School (ILA). The low resistance device, which features a hollow fiber
of Engineering and Applied membrane gas exchange surface area of 1.3 m2, is the first
artificial lung accommodated with blood pumped by the human
Science has formed a Water
heart, and has been validated in more than 150 clinical applica-
Technology Research Center
tions.
to develop improved RO tech-
nologies for turning brackish The membrane is essential to the ILA. Featuring very high gas
or seawater into fresh water. exchange, but low resistance, blood can pass easily through the
Researchers at the center also membrane without a lot of pressure, but can still trade oxygen for
will study methods to mini- CO2 at a very high rate. The patient is attached to the ILA via a
mize environmental impacts cannula in the femoral vein. It is not necessary to open the
associated with desalination patient’s chest or even to employ a general anesthetic. The device
and will seek to lower the recently received the European CE mark; the company is pursuing
FDA approval for U.S. clinical trials.
process’ cost by integrating it
with renewable energy, en-
The BioLung, NovaLung’s second product and the first total artificial
ergy recovery and solar en- lung, is scheduled for introduction in 2006. Similar to the ILA,
ergy. UCLA chemical engineer- BioLung needs no mechanical pump, instead relying on the heart’s
ing professor Yoram Cohen pumping power to send blood from the pulmonary artery through the
will head the research facil- membrane cartridge. BioLung has undergone intensive bench
ity, dubbed the WaTeR testing and animal trials, and is expected to be in human clinical
trials within two years.

10
Membrane & Separation Technology News July 2005

In testing on sheep, BioLung demonstrated better survival rates


and less lung injury than a conventional ventilator in five-day tests ter. The endeavor has been
on the animals’ damaged lungs. The prototype was well tolerated in awarded a $1 million grant
series with normal sheep pulmonary circulation. Six of eight sheep from the State of California,
with the BioLung versus one of six with mechanical ventilation and $1.6 million in contribu-
survived. The device could eventually help lung transplant candi-
tions from other donors. The
dates stay healthy enough to remain at the top of lung transplant
Center anticipates collabo-
lists. It also may prove suitable for patients with end-stage chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary fibrosis or cystic fibrosis. rative projects enlisting
multidis-ciplinary teams from
Initially, BioLung will be used paracorporeally, with grafts connect- several academic institutions
ing the patient to an extracorporeal device. This will permit safe, including UCLA, UC Davis,
rapid non-surgical replacement of the lung, so that treatment UC Riverside, USC and the
intervals will not be limited by device durability. Universitat Rovira i Virgili in
Spain.
Contact: Novalung GmbH, Lotzenäcker 3, 72379 Hechingen, Ger-
many; Tel: +49 7471 98 488-00, Fax: +49 7471 98 488-15.
PATENTS
MARS Okayed for Angled Wells Improve
Liver Treatment Yields, Reproducibility.
Millipore Corp. (Billerica, MA)
Gambro Renal Products has received FDA 510(k) clearance for the has been granted U.S. Patent
MARS-Molecular Adsorbents Recirculating System for removing 6,899,810 for a multiwell UF or
toxins from the blood in cases of drug overdose and poisoning. MARS MF filter plate that includes a
therapy is a blood purification system, based on hollow fiber mem- mechanism to adjust the angle
brane cartridges. It uses a recirculating human albumin solution of the membranes within the
as the primary agent for removing liver toxins. The support device wells relative to a line of a
is designed to bridge liver patients to recovery of congenital liver centrifuge. The line is perpen-
function or preparation for liver transplant. dicular to centrifuge’s axis of
rotation and passes through
Gambro acquired MARS technology, developed at the University of the center of a major plane of
Rostock, in September 2004, with the purchase of Teraklin AG. the filtering device, control-
During MARS therapy, the patient is connected to Gambro’s Prisma ling the force vector tangen-
system, a continuous renal replacement therapy system that tial to the membrane. The
angle can include a wedge lo-
pumps blood through an extracorporeal circuit through a hollow
cated between the center of
fiber hemodialyzer called the MARS Flux Filter.
rotation of a centrifuge and a
swinging bucket of the centri-
A recirculating 20% human albumin dialysate flows on the outside
fuge, or may be located within
of the membrane’s albumin-impregnated polysulfone fibers. Liver
each well, providing individu-
toxins bind to the albumin and are transported by the bound protein ally specified angles for each
through the MARS membrane. Toxins detach from plasma albumin membrane. In either case, the
and bind to membrane-bound albumin because their affinity for angle can be adjusted in a top-
polysulfone-bound albumin is higher. to-bottom orientation, a side-
to-side orientation or both a
The membrane pores are sized at 50 kDa, so that hormones and top-to-bottom and a side-to-
growth factors are not removed from the patient’s blood. The side orientation. The device
dialysate then is regenerated through columns of activated char- improves upon fixed well plates
coal and anion exchange resin in a continuous closed circuit. With by increasing the average vol-
its binding sites free again, the albumin solution can be recircu- ume filtered and by providing
lated. a filtrate volume with little
well-to-well variability.
MARS therapy will be available in the U.S. toward year-end 2005. An
estimated 70,000 patients per year might benefit from the treat- Controllable Micro-Tubu-
ment. Annually, about 6,000 patients with no prior history of liver lar Materials. University of
disease develop acute liver failure from overdoses and blood poison- Michigan scientists have pat
ing, viral infections, multi-organ failure, underlying chronic dis-

11
Membrane & Separation Technology News July 2005

eases and alcohol abuse.


Cenented a process for fabri-
cating highly porous (up to Contact: Gambro Renal Products, 10810 W. Collins Ave., Lakewood,
97%), parallel, micro-tubular, CO 80215; Tel: 303/232/6800, Fax: 303/231-4032.
oriented scaffolds from biode-
gradable polymers using a
novel phase-separation NON-SEPARATING
method. The porous materials
have wide applicability, includ-
ing scaffolding materials for
tissue regeneration, mem- Separion Suitable for
brane-based medical devices HEV Batteries
such as dialyzers, matrix ma-
terials for reactors or biore-
DeGussa researchers report that the “Holy Grail of the automotive
actors, controlled release ma-
trices, wound dressings, pack- industry — reduced weight coupled with improved performance,”
aging and separation mem- could soon become reality by improving a rather neglected car
branes. The method comprises component, the battery. Incorporating DeGussa’s Separion mem-
the steps of: mixing a polymer brane as the separator could take lithium-ion batteries into en-
with a liquid to form a compo- tirely new applications in HEVs (hybrid electric vehicles).
sition, changing the tempera-
ture to cause phase separa- Used widely as a power supply for notebook computers, cell phones
tion of the composition with a and other portable electronics, lithium-ion batteries have proved
directional temperature gradi- lighter and more powerful than conventional lead or nickel-cad-
ent, and then removing an un- mium cells. Applied as a power source in HEVs, the batteries have the
necessary phase. Porosity, potential to save gas and protect the environment. When the vehicle’s
micro-tube diameter, tubular brake is applied, a generator produces power that is stored in the
morphology (polygon, circular battery and helps to operate the engine. Gas savings from recovering
or other geometric or non-geo- braking energy is estimated at up to 25%. However, conventional
metric shaped cross-sections) large lithium ion batteries used in HEVs may present a safety hazard.
and their orientation may be In cases of voltage overload from faulty application, the batteries can
controlled by the polymer con- overheat to 800°C and melt, sometimes causing a vehicle fire.
centration, solvent system and
temperature gradient. (U.S. Developed by DeGussa’s R&D arm Creavis Technologies, the thin,
Patent 6,899,873) ceramic-coated Separion membrane can prevent such hazards.
Safety tests show that when the membrane is used to separate a
Lattice Matching Mini-
lithium ion battery’s positive and negative poles, the cell heats to
mizes Mechanical Failure.
only 77°C. In addition the membrane offers higher efficiency, which
Eltron Research (Golden, CO)
means higher output per unit weight, over a longer period.
has received U.S. Patent
6,899,744 for improved com-
Creavis began developing flexible ceramic membranes five years
posite hydrogen transport
membranes used for extract-
ago. The first products were filtration membranes for food process-
ing hydrogen from gas mix-
ing, biotech and wastewater treatment. However, the initial prod-
tures. The patent describes ucts were too heavy and thick for use in batteries.
the use of supports for metal
and metal alloy membranes Separion separators now are suitable as battery separators, com-
that have high hydrogen per- bining the flexibility of ultrathin polymeric membranes with the
meability, but are too thin to hydrophilicity and chemical/thermal resistance of ceramic mate-
be self-supporting, too weak rials. The membrane is manufactured by coating inorganic mate-
to resist differential pres- rial onto a nonwoven support, without the use of polymeric binders.
sures across the membrane, Various pore sizes are selectively obtained through the use of
or become embrittled by hy- different inorganic suspensions. Because of its ceramic properties,
drogen. The support materi- Separion is more temperature-stable than conventional separa-
als are lattice matched to the tors. This contributes toward preventing short circuits in batteries.
metals and metal alloys. This The separator has long-term stability at temperatures up to 210°C
minimizes stress at the in- and can tolerate higher temperatures for short periods. Separion’s
ternal interfaces, reducing the shutdown mechanism can be set to a defined temperature point
between about 80°C and 150°C.

12
Membrane & Separation Technology News July 2005

Because of the hydrophilic character of the membrane materials,


the separator has excellent wettability, exceeding that of polyolefin formation of dislocations,
separators. Separion is immediately wetted in all commonly used leak paths and sites for crack
solvents. When impregnated with an electrolyte, the separator has initiation. The membrane can
low ionic resistance because of its high porosity and film thinness. be latticed-matched to a po-
rous metal or alloy support, a
The separator production method is a continuous process in which porous ceramic support or a
an ultrathin nonwoven polymer is impregnated with a suspension, porous cermet support. Lat-
and then dried and hardened. The suspension consists of a liquid tice matching does not apply
containing metal oxides and adhesion promoters, which form the to composite membranes
ceramic coating and gives the membrane its outstanding proper- that employ non-crystalline
ties. Separion production at DeGussa’s Marl, Germany plant is organic polymers or resins as
projected to reach two million square meters in 2005, a tenfold components.
increase from 2004 levels.
Particles Sorb Inactivating
In addition to the automotive industry, DeGussa hopes to apply Sep- Agents. Baxter International
arion technology to batteries for e-bikes — bicycles with an electric (Deerfield, IL) has patented
engine. Germany’s Deutsche Post is currently testing Separion- novel composite membranes
based batteries in a large-scale bike trial. But, the company consisting of particulate mate-
primarily is targeting the Asian market. In China alone, 7.5 million rial immobilized within a poly-
e-bikes were sold last year. meric matrix and methods for
making the membranes. The
Contact: Gerhard Hörpel, Ceramic Membranes, Creavis Technolo- 400 micron or thicker flexible
gies and Innovation, DeGussa AG, Paul-Baumann-Strasse 1, D- composites include a selected
45764 Marl, Germany; Tel: +49-2365 49-01. quantity of fine activated car-
bon sorbent particles less than
20ìm in diameter immobilized
in a polymer such as polyure-
INDUSTRY NEWS thane. The membranes are
useful for removing organic com-
pounds (i.e. acridine, L-glu-
Alliance to Cut tathione) that have been added
to a biological fluid, such as
Desalination Methods blood, as part of a pathogen in-
activation treatment.
The Bureau of Reclamation and the Metropolitan Water District of
Southern California have entered into a cooperative research
agreement to test three RO pilot projects at Reclamation’s Water
Quality Improvement Center in Yuma, AZ. The processes examined
PRODUCTS
in the projects have the potential to develop non-traditional water
supplies; reduce the cost of desalination; and increase the amount MP4 Filters Paint Faster.
of water available after treatment. The $3 million research agree- Orelis (Miribel, France) has
ment includes in-kind and cash contributions from both the bureau improved its popular Pleiade
and the water district. membrane module, a plate
and frame system used widely
by auto manufacturers for the
In the first project, the research team will test replacing MF pre-
ultrafiltration of electro-
treatment to RO with pretreatment consisting of ozone and
phoretic paints. The new MP4
biofiltration processes. The research will determine if ozone/
module offers higher perfor-
biofiltration is cost effective in maximizing feed water quality and
mance with lower energy re-
minimizing membrane fouling.
quirements and can directly
replace spiral wound ele-
In the second project, researchers will study the performance of 18-
ments on existing skids. Each
inch RO modules, the largest currently available elements. The
long-lived membrane has a
project will be the first demonstration of membranes of this size used
shutoff valve, which permits
as part of a complete water treatment system and will evaluate how
damaged ones to be identi-
well the membranes perform when operated at 85%, or greater, water
fied and isolated. Modules are
recovery on conventionally pretreated water. Researchers also hope
available in two versions, the
to determine how often the membranes must be cleaned, and the
MP4 50, which has a paint flow
optimal cleaning strategy needed.

13
Membrane & Separation Technology News July 2005

WHO’S WHO IN MEMBRANE TECHNOLOGY

Pionetics Founder Brings Water Splitting Home


Eric Nyberg is the founder and president of San Carlos, California-based Pionetics, developers of
LINX technology and the first residential water purifier based on ion exchange membranes.

MST: How did you become involved in membrane technology?

EN: In graduate school at the University of Illinois, I was starting to use ion exchange materials, but not
as membranes. Then at Raychem Corp. in the 1980s, in an electrochemistry group, I began casting ion
exchange layers on electrodes. That’s what I refer to as a membrane, a layer of ion exchange material.

MST: How was Pionetics established and how has the firm been funded?

EN: Pionetics was founded in 1995, so that we, the two co-founders and I, could assign a licensing
agreement from Raychem to the corporation. In 1997, we filed for our basic patent and assigned that to
Pionetics. We were funded by the founders for the first six years. After that, we raised funds from individual
private investors, 10 or 15 bridge investors. In May of 2003, five venture capital firms led by NGEN came
on board with $3.2 million in our Series B round. We closed on our Series C round in November ’04 with
$6.4 million.

MST: Tell us briefly about Pionetics technology and product portfolio.

EN: The technology is named LINX, an acronym that stands for electrically regenerable ion exchange. We
are doing a classic ion exchange process using electricity to regenerate the material rather than using
chemicals. In that sense, it’s probably not a membrane process in the way normally thought of, it’s more
of a batch ion exchange process. But, all of our ion exchange materials are in the form of long sheets. We
use electricity to accelerate the extraction of ions from water as they pass through a cartridge that we spiral
wind from our membranes. The cartridge is sitting between two electrodes, which provide the electric field
and a driving force such as in an electrodialysis cell, but our extraction process is fundamentally different.

At some point, the ion exchange capacity of the membrane is consumed, or exhausted, and it’s time for
regeneration. We reverse the polarity on the electrodes, slowly pass a solution through the cartridge, and
expel the ions that were absorbed in the previous step back into the solution to make a concentrate. This
is usually a waste stream, but can be something that is recovered, as well. Regeneration takes about ten
minutes. The system is then ready for another deionization step.

Our first product is a point of use drinking water system. We’re just starting to sell the first units now for
field trials. (See “LINX Wastes Less Water,” this issue)

MST: What goals do you have for the company near term (next two to three years) and longer term?

EN: In the next three years, we want to firmly entrench the under sink drinking water system in a variety
of geographies. We’re finding that the Asian market is really hungry for a drinking water system that doesn’t
waste much water, doesn’t take much space and doesn’t use much power. We’re planning to entrench
ourselves in China, India and other countries in Asia, and in Latin America, as well as penetrate the
European and U.S. market with point of use.

We have a relationship with a leading residential water softening company. The technology scales up well
and we’ve actually built prototypes with this partner that treat up to ten gallons per minute. It would be
a point of entry system that would compete with classic ion exchange systems for softening water or
treating water for the whole house.

MST: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as company president?

14
Membrane & Separation Technology News July 2005

EN: It’s a brand new technology for a conservative, slow moving industry. I’ve been convinced for quite
some time that our point of use application is an excellent fit given the drawbacks of RO, but getting large
companies to move and to make a bet is tough, especially when you’re a startup. It’s really about finding
a high quality, large partner that wants to move relatively quickly.

MST: If you weren’t Pionetics’ president, what would you be doing?

EN: My goal is to work in Third World countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia introducing people at a
village level to our technology. I think it’s going to be a great fit.

The third project calls for a new concentrate recovery technology to


be fed by the reject stream of a large-diameter RO unit. The project rate of 16m3/h and a perme-
goal is to confirm previous pilot-scale research, which produced a ate output of 500l/h, ad the
95% water recovery, a 10% increase compared to traditional RO MP4 70, which has a paint
recovery. The concentrate recovery process involves chemical flow rate of 23m3/h and a
removal of compounds with the greatest fouling potential, followed permeate output of 700l/h.
by treatment with a second RO system. Standard skids contain two,
four, six, eight or ten mod-
Contact: Peter Soeth, Bureau of Reclamation, Denver Federal ules.
Center, Building 67, P.O. Box 25007 (D-8000), Denver, C) 80225-
0007; Tel: 303/445-3615 email: psoeth@do.usbr.gov. Polydisc Optimized for
Groundwater Sample
Prep. Whatman Inc.
Cranfield MBR (Middlesex, UK) has debuted
Projects Funded the Polydisc GW, a ready-
to-use in line disc filter for
Cranfield University has received a funding package of nearly $1 preparing groundwater
million to bring six water treatment technologies to commercial- samples prior to dissolved
ization. Two of the technologies are based on membrane bioreactors. heavy metals analysis. In-
The funding package includes a $271,000 investment from NESTA corporating a pre-rinsed, hy-
(National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts), $271,000 drophilic cellulose acetate
from Oxford Technology 4 VCT, $96,000 from Cranfield Enterprises membrane, Polydisc GW was
Ltd. and $349,000 from business angels. developed especially for
sample filtration in trace an-
The technologies are in development by Water Innovate Ltd. (WIL), alysis. Housed in durable
part of Cranfield University’s School of Water Sciences (SWS), a spin polypropylene, the device
off dedicated to bringing research in water and wastewater sectors features a pre-tested quartz-
to the marketplace. Anthony Bennett, spokesperson for the spin off, fiber pre-filter and a mem-
tells MST that WIL currently is concentrating on commercializing brane in a sandwich design
three non-membrane technologies: OdorSim odor modeling soft- for high absorption capacity
ware, N-Tox nitrification toxicity monitoring and a high perfor- of dirt. The large effective
mance chemical additive. surface area, 20.4cm2, en-
sures rapid collection of
To be developed later, the two MBR technologies include the Mem- samples. Polydisc GW meets
brane Chemical Reactor (MCR) and the Odor Extraction Membrane EPA regulations for samples
Reactor (OEMR). when analyzing dissolved or
suspended metals in
• The MCR uses ultraviolet light combined with a titanium dioxide groundwater.
(TiO2) catalyst in a small footprint membrane reactor that treats
high COD and colored effluents such as those produced by the
dyeing industry. The system is the first practicable application of CALENDAR
UV-TiO2 technology for pollutant removal.
August 22-23, The Future
• The OEMR uses hollow fiber membranes that allow diffusion of of Desalination in Texas:
hydrogen sulfide and related odor-causing molecules from the gas

15
Membrane & Separation Technology News July 2005

phase into an aqueous, scrubbing phase. The scrubbing phase can


be undertaken using traditional chemical or biological methods. Membrane Desalination
Depending on the stage of development, Water Innovate will take Workshop, Texas A&M Uni-
the technologies to market over the next 4 to 18 months. versity, College Station,
Texas. Contact: Connie
Contact: Steve Callister, Managing Director, Water Innovate, Ltd.,
School of Water Sciences, Cranfield University, Cranfield, Conaway, Petroleum Engi-
Bedfordshire MK43 0AL, UK; Tel: +44 07879 870741, email: neering Department, 710
steve.callister@waterinnovate.co.uk. Richardson Bldg., TAMU-
3116, College Station,
TX 77843-3116; Tel: 979/
MEMBRANE TECHNOLOGY STOCK WATCH 845-2272, Fax: 979/862-
(At close, June 30, 2005) 7407, email: connie@pe.
tamu.edu.
This Last
Company Symbol Month Month Change August 21-26, ICOM 2005-
International Congress on
Air Products & Membranes and Membrane
Chemicals APD 60.270 60.230 +0.040
Processes, Lotte Hotel
Commodore
Separation Tech. CXOT 0.009 0.009 - Jamsil, Seoul, Korea. Con-
Cuno, Inc. CUNO.OB 71.430 71.100 +0.330 tact: INSESSION Interna-
Hyflux, Ltd.* SGX:HYFL.SI 2.515 2.304 +0.211 tional Convention Services,
Millipore Corp. MIL 56.640 51.900 +4.740 Inc., 3rd Floor, 672-35
Mykrolis Corp. MYK 14.260 13.490 +0.770 Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam-gu,
Pall Corp. PLL 30.450 29.190 +1.260 Seoul 135-915, Korea; Tel:
Praxair, Inc. PX 46.500 46.870 -0.370
+82-2-3471-8555, Fax: +82-2-
Sartorius AG* XE.SRT 22.033 20.978 +1.055
Whatman plc* LSE:WHM.L 4.807 4.705 +0.102 521-8683, email: info@
Zenon icom2005.org.
Environmental ZEN.TO 24.720 25.350 -0.630

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