Dutch unveil ‘breakthrough’ membrane biofouling cleaner

Large Dutch water supplier Vitens and WE-consult have developed what they describe as a “sustainable breakthrough” technology designed to clean biofouling from desalination and water treatment membranes.

Vitens is currently using this filtration technology at multiple points in its production process.

Many membrane filters are currently cleaned throughout the world with generic chemical products, such as caustic soda and citric acid, or expensive specialist chemicals. The cleaning process takes hours and consequently delays operations.

Vitens says that the filters never become 100% clean, as a result of which product quality deteriorates, and the membrane filters require more frequent replacement.

By cleaning the filters with a mixture of water and carbon dioxide (CO2), the filters are effectively scrubbed clean by small bubbles. In contrast to air, CO2 is easily soluble in water, as a result of which air-locking is no longer an issue.

This process only takes 15 minutes and is 4 times better for the environment than cleaning with chemicals. The filters become cleaner, which increases the lifespan of the filters and the quality of the end‑product.

“With the help of this new technology, we are saving the environment and we are realising significant savings on the cost of new filters,” says Bas Rietman, process technologist. “Furthermore, the length of time that our business process is down is reduced”.

The innovation was in part made possible by an ‘innoWATOR’ grant provided by NL Agency. It was developed in partnership with the University of Twente, RWB Water Services and WE-consult. This technology is jointly owned by Vitens and WE-consult.