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What is Membrane Technology?

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  • Written By: C. Martin
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2016
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Membrane technology is a term that refers to a number of different filtration processes that are used to separate substances. With this technology, membranes are used as filters in separation processes, with a wide variety of applications, both industrial and scientific. They provide effective alternatives to related technologies such as adsorption, ion exchangers, and sand filters. The membranes used in membrane technology may be regarded as barriers separating two fluids and allowing certain substances to be transported across the membrane.

At its simplest, the technological use of membranes may consist of setting up a permeable membranous filter which allows water to flow through, but traps suspended solids. There are various forces which may be used to cause water to penetrate through the membrane. These may include gravity, pressure, electrical current, or maintaining a concentration gradient across the membrane.

One of the major uses of this type of technology is in the field of water filtration and purification. This includes desalination, or creation of drinking water from salt water, as well as purification of ground water or waste water. Other areas of industry that utilize membrane technologies include biotechnology, food and drink manufacturing, and medical uses such as dialysis for kidney failure patients.

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Some of the different types of membrane technology include reverse osmosis, microfiltration, ultrafiltration, and nanofiltration. Reverse osmosis is a membrane technology process that employs the use of pressure to force a fluid through the membrane. It is the opposite of the natural osmosis function, in which a substance moves across a membrane from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration. Applications of this specific type of membrane technology include the production of concentrated fruit juice, the creation of artificial seawater for aquaria, and the production of maple syrup.

Microfiltration, ultrafiltration, and nanofiltration are membrane technologies that differ from each other mainly in pore size of the membrane used. Microfiltration typically uses membranes with a pore size of 0.1 to 10 micrometers. Ultrafiltration membrane pore size is typically 0.1 to 0.001 micrometers. Nanofiltration membranes have the very smallest pore size, usually measured in nanometers, where one nanometer is equal to 0.001 of a micrometer.

Membrane technology is a highly complex area of scientific research. Many other specific techniques and applications exist in a wide variety of industries. Some of these include specialist membrane technology applications such as separation of gases, controlled drug delivery in medicine, and blood oxygenation in artificial lungs.

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sanjayy
Post 5

If someone ask me what is a membrane, how do I answer? For water filtration, that is.

miriam98
Post 4

I use a soft water filter treatment at home. You’re going to laugh, but the reason I use it is I started losing hair when I was using the hard water that I had before. After I installed the soft water filter, my hair didn’t fall off anymore.

The filtration membrane removes 99.9% of impurities, mainly calcium and magnesium which are the primary minerals in hard water. We run the system throughout the whole house, so we get soft water everywhere including the shower.

If I have one complaint about the soft water treatment, it’s that when you lather your hands with soap, it feels like it never comes off. It’s called soft water for a reason. I heard a chemical explanation about why this is so but I don’t remember it, and like I said, as long as my hair doesn’t fall off, I’ll put up with the inconvenience.

NathanG
Post 3

@nony - In fact membrane filtration has been used to clean up some major oil spills in recent years. In one incident a fiber filter was used to separate the oil from the water. The oil would congeal upon touching the fiber, letting the water pass through.

nony
Post 2

@anon136593 - That’s a good point. More specifically, I was wondering if water membrane technology could be used to clean up oil spills in the ocean. The membranes could be used as a filter to sweep up the oil; the oil would cling to the membrane, leaving nothing but clean water behind. I’m sure it’s probably been used but I don’t know the specifics.

anon136593
Post 1

how about the applications of this technology in recycling used oil?

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