Membrane filter for the reduction of fouling by dielectrophoresis

#Membrane filtration #fouling reduction #dielectrophoresis #screen printing #thin film technology
Sketch of membrane filters, microelectrodes are screen-printed onto membrane filters and create a force that keeps particles from depositing on the membrane. Permeability as a function of time decreases less for DEP-functionalized membranes than for non-functionalized ones. After 5 hours of operation, the permeability of DEP modules is twice that of non-functionalized modules.
Schematic illustration of a functionalized membrane surface (left) and experimental evidence of the increase in permeability using DEP (right). Copyright: University Bremen.

One problem of membrane filtration is the blocking of the membrane surface by the substance to be separated. The functionalized membrane modules developed use an electrical effect that reduces this buildup. This allows the time to membrane cleaning to be extended and the flow rate through the membrane to be increased.

The shortage of drinking water is becoming more and more acute due to the increasing demand for water with a decreasing availability of pure water sources. Filter membranes for water treatment show a strong limitation: The deposition of the substances to be separated on the membrane surface, also called fouling, leads to a continuous reduction of the water flow through the membrane during continuous operation. The developed dielectrophoresis membrane modules (DEP modules) help to significantly reduce membrane fouling. For this purpose, polymeric membrane surfaces are equipped with electrodes via a screen-printing process and then provided with a thin protective layer of titanium oxide by means of an innovative process. By applying a low alternating voltage, the electrodes generate a strong electric field over the membrane surface, which prevents suspended solids from being deposited by electrokinetic forces during filtration.

In laboratory tests under ideal conditions, the service life - the time it takes for the permeate flow through the module to drop to one-third of its initial value - was extended fivefold. In a pilot plant with a throughput of approx. 1 m3 per day, a 50% higher permeability (flow rate as a function of the applied pressure difference) was achieved in a municipal wastewater treatment plant compared to regular modules. The developed process technology can later be used for compact, portable filter systems, e.g. for crisis situations, as well as for decentralized or stationary systems due to the low energy requirements.

Water resource: Process water, Surface water, Wastewater
Type of product:
  • Technologies & processes
TRL: 5
    TRL (Technology Readiness Level)
  • TRL 1 - Basic principles observed
  • TRL 2 - Technology concept formulated
  • TRL 3 - Experimental proof of concept
  • TRL 4 - Technology validated in lab
  • TRL 5 - Technology validated in relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies)
  • TRL 6 - Technology demonstrated in relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies)
  • TRL 7 - System prototype demonstration in operational environment
  • TRL 8 - System complete and qualified
  • TRL 9 - Actual system proven in operational environment (competitive manufacturing in the case of key enabling technologies; or in space)
Application sector: Cities and municipalities, Industry, Water resource management
Funding measure: WavE

Contact and partners

Logo Zentrum für Umweltforschung und nachhaltige Technologien (UFT), Universität Bremen
  • Zentrum für Umweltforschung und nachhaltige Technologien (UFT), Universität Bremen,
  • Leobener Straße 6,
  • 28359 Bremen

Zentrum für Umweltforschung und nachhaltige Technologien (UFT), Universität Bremen,
MARTIN Systems GmbH
Fraunhofer Institut für Fertigungstechnik und Angewandte Materialforschung (IFAM)
NB Technologies GmbH
Plasmatreat GmbH
Weser Umwelttechnik

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