Addressing the ‘hidden’ pollution behind water purification membranes

James Sherwood is a guest web-writer for Green Chemistry. James is a research associate in the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence at the University of York. His interests range from the certification and application of bio-based products, to the understanding of solvent effects in organic synthesis.

Membrane technology is a major contributor to present day desalination and other water purification processes. Ironically, the benefits to water quality that membranes provide are counteracted by the actual membrane fabrication procedure, which collectively emits billions of litres of wastewater, contaminated with reprotoxic organic solvents, every year. Only 31% of membrane manufacturing companies surveyed treat the waste water, either themselves or using a waste management company. The rest dispose of this contaminated water down the sink.

This study, carried out by researchers at the University of Manchester, UK, sought to identify reusable absorbents for the purpose of purifying the aqueous wastestreams from membrane production. Several absorbents were found to be suitable for extracting DMF and NMP from wastewater. These include imprinted polymers, zeolites, and graphene based materials, all of which can be regenerated and reused. The purified waste water could also be reused in the membrane fabrication process, vastly reducing water use. Membrane waste water treatment

This article is open access and available to everyone to read for free:

Sustainable wastewater treatment and recycling in membrane manufacturing

Razali et al., Green Chem., 2015, advanced article. DOI: 10.1039/c5gc01937k

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