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Membrane Technologies of Water Purification


Development of Highly-Selective Energy-Saving Membrane Technologies of Water Purification and Desalination

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-WPC/Water Pollution and Control/Environment
  • NNE-MEC/Miscellaneous Energy Conversion/Non-Nuclear Energy

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Keldysh Research Center, Russia, Moscow


  • Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden, Uppsala

Project summary

The Project objectives are development of technologies of decreasing power consumption at water purification and desalination at the expense of utilization of physicochemical energy of concentrate and application of low-pressure membranes and its updating to the level of commercial realization.

Standards of consumption of water reserves as of today exceed by orders spending of all other raw materials taken together. At the same time, reserves of sea-water may be considered practically an inexhaustible source of fresh water. At the present time, membrane technique of reverse osmosis reputed highly effective for desalination of sea-water. In sea-water desalination with membrane techniques there are two problems – power consumption and quality of purification.

In water desalination with reverse-osmosis technique, original sea-water is supplied under high pressure to membrane apparatus where original stream is pided into two flows – permeate (desalinated water) and concentrate (original sea-water with a raised salinity). Mechanical constituent of concentrate potential energy (differential pressure between concentrate and initial sea-water) is now utilized in systems of turbine- or piston type which results in a decrease of specific expenditures down to the level of 3 to 5 kW*h/m3 yet.

At the moment there are no devices and technologies for utilization of physicochemical constituent of concentrate potential energy (a difference between concentrations of salts in concentrate and environment). The authors of the Project on the basis of laboratory research have developed base principles of technological utilization of physicochemical energy of concentrate being formed by water desalination, realization of which will lead to a decrease of electric power expenditures by water desalination down to 2.0…2.5 kW*h/m3.

The authors developed the original method for rising selectivity of low-pressure membranes with respect to boron compounds. Its realization will allow at the expense of low-pressure RO membranes application for high quality drinking water manufacturing an essential decrease (by 20 to 25 %) of specific power consumption in comparison with high pressure RO membranes.

At the present time both technologies approach their completion at the level of scientific investigations and laboratory designing. At the same time the principal ideas and engineering solutions verification on full-scale plants are needed, inasmuch as well known that in such elaborations material effect of scale factor on the physicochemical process effectiveness is very high. The stage of the work in the context of the Project proposed – completion of bench and actual testing of technologies on the full-scale units and preparation for subsequent commercialization.

The plan of work on the Project is drawn up for two years. Pursuant to the objectives set it comprises the following interrelated lines of work:

  • carrying out a complex of scientific investigations into processes of sea water purification from boron compounds by the reverse osmosis method and investigations into processes of energy recuperation by the direct osmosis method on laboratory samples of membranes;
  • predictive-theoretical investigations into processes of direct and reverse osmosis for different concentrations of dissolved substances based on the analysis of equations of hydrodynamics, mass exchange and chemical physics. Optimization of design solutions based on experimental and predictive data obtained;
  • Development and manufacture of demonstrators-prototypes of critical elements of boron-selective energy-saving experimental direct and reverse osmosis plants, output of 1 –2 m3/hr, comprising: a direct osmosis module, a reverse osmosis module, a system for supply and discharge of fluid flows, a control system, software;
  • Optimization of operating conditions of boron-selective energy-saving experimental plants and determination of main characteristics of working process in stationary and transient conditions;
  • Updating experimental direct and reverse osmosis plants by results of investigations to the level of preproduction prototypes, their tests;
  • Engineering and economic analysis of different types of boron-selective energy-saving plants for desalination of sea water and determination of their most efficient schemes for application in water supply and waste water treatment. Development of conceptual design and technical assignment for development and manufacture of pilot industrial plants for application in water supply and waste water treatment.

The technology proposed is of indubitable interest, first of all, for such countries as USA, Japan, Republic of Korea, Israel, India, countries of CIS, EC and others. There is a real technical possibility in these countries to implement this project in the near future.

The role of foreign collaborators is participation in regular discussions and expert examination of results of work at all stages, carrying out joint experimental and predictive investigations, analysis of prospects of the use of the technology under development in water supply and waste water treatment.

The Project is in conformity with ISTC aims and objectives in support of fundamental and applied research development of technology in the field of environmental protection, water supply and energy recuperation.

The work will be done with participation of specialists previously engaged in research and development of liquid-propellant and solid-propellant engines for ballistic rockets.

In the process of fulfillment of the project, demonstration models of critical elements of the complex technological scheme – low-pressure reverse-osmosis unit, membrane facility for concentrate chemical energy regeneration, installation for concentrate hydrodynamic energy regeneration, as well measuring and control system, will be made.


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