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Self-cleaning Membrane for Desal Plants

A self-cleaning filter membrane that could lead to significant savings in energy use and maintenance costs at desalination plants is being developed by EU-funded researchers

The NAWADES project, a German-led consortium with participation from companies in Austria, Spain, the UK, Italy and Sweden, is working on a long-life desalination filter membrane that resists mineral deposits. Because it stays clean, the membrane should lower desalination energy and maintenance costs and cut down on the pollution the process creates.

Existing filters at desalination plants frequently clog up with microscopic sea life and mineral deposits, meaning they require regular cleaning, generating waste and using large amounts of energy.

The project team looked at all aspects of seawater desalination, from the different processes involved to the structure of the filter membranes.  The team developed new membrane materials and coatings that use nanotechnology to resist the build-up of residues and keep the filter clean. They also developed a modular filter design based around the new membranes.

One way in which the project team modified the membranes was to add a nanoscale titanium dioxide coating that reacts with sunlight to break down organic matter that settles on the membranes.

By keeping the filters clean and clear of blockages, treatment plants do not need such high water pressure to remove salt from water, thus saving energy. The self-cleaning technology also means that plant operators can reduce the amount of polluting chemicals needed to clean filters and can cut maintenance costs.

Source: WWT

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