Engineers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, have created technology that can transform contaminated water into purified water that is fit for consumption “faster and more energy-efficiently than ever before”.
Using membranes made from graphene oxide, researchers have developed a water treatment technology that can be manufactured using gravure printing, an industrial printing process.
The engineers said the technology will directly benefit Australian and international companies seeking energy savings and other cost advantages in water and wastewater filtration and industrial processes associated with pulp and paper, food and beverage, and pharmaceuticals.
Supported by funding from the Australian government’s Co-operative Research Centre programme of approximately AUD 1.2 million ($865,000) and with investment from industry partners Clean Teq Holdings and Ionic Industries, the technology is entering commercialisation phase after seven years of research and development.
Lead researcher Mainak Majumder, from Monash’s department of mechanical and aerospace engineering, said: “This Australian-made, world-first technology can be easily adapted by industries in everything from drinking water purification, to mining waste treatment to food and beverage industry applications.”
Majumder added that the graphene oxide membrane technology offers an “enormous cost advantage” to industry due to its proven ability to reduce energy consumption during water filtration.
“Since the membrane can be produced using standard industrial printing processes, the technology is also highly versatile and cost-efficient,” he said.
“The graphene oxide sheets are layered into a structure that looks a little like puff pastry when viewed under a powerful microscope. Water and small molecules can flow around individual sheets or through pin-hole defects in the sheets and pass through the layered structure.”
Sam Martin, who leads Majumder’s membrane development team, said: “The gaps between the sheets are very small, around a one billionth of a metre, and permit only the smallest of molecules to pass, sieving out and rejecting the larger ones.”
“Industry can use the new membranes where nanofiltration and reverse osmosis are currently used. The energy-efficient nature of the membrane makes it more cost-efficient than conventional membranes used in industrial processes.”
Managing director of Ionic Industries Simon Savage believes that people across the world will benefit from the technology. “In wastewater treatment, the ability to remove pesticides and hormones is becoming more important, especially when water reuse is considered,” he said.
“In countries such as China, India and Africa where access to fresh water for drinking, agriculture and industry is critical, the new membranes may be used to filter surface and groundwater into drinking water.”
Founder and CTO of CleanTeq Peter Voigt said: “We aim to be manufacturing these membranes by the second half of 2019. We expect that the improved flux and the better robustness of the membrane will make the whole of life costs significantly lower than those currently in operation.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019
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