Government funding for Australian ceramic membrane
Australian government funding of Aus$ 70,400 has been granted to University of Queensland (UQ) researchers to develop a low-cost desalination technology through its company Ceramipore Pty Ltd, the university announced on 17 September 2009.Ceramipore is one of 52 companies nationally to share Aus$ 3.6 million in this round of Commercialising Emerging Technologies (COMET) funding to help commercialise Australian innovations.
The Ceramipore technology can be used in membrane distillation (MD), an alternative desalination process for seawater or wastewater, where saline feedwater is heated to enhance vapour production and then exposed to a ceramic membrane. The vapour is drawn through the membrane, condensed on the other side and collected as fresh water. The technique will be featured in the August/September 2009 issue of D&WR magazine.
Originally intended for gas separation, the potential of the technology as a desalination membrane was the result of an investigative student project. The current research group, led by associate professor Joe da Costa, from UQ's School of Engineering and the ARC Centre for Excellence in Functional Nanomaterials, is now working with Ceramipore to develop the technology's commercial potential.
Ceramipore director Dr Simon Cashion said the technology was expected to offer significant cost-savings.
"The Ceramipore system operates at an order of magnitude lower in pressure than traditional techniques, which reduces energy-intensive pumping costs. The process uses less electrical energy than existing methods and can be powered by low-cost energy sources such as waste heat or solar," Dr Cashion said.
"The inorganic ceramic-based membranes are more robust than alternative polymer-based membranes, and appear to have characteristics that offer benefits distinct from other materials, which could prove advantageous in certain applications. The membrane is more wear-and-tear resistant and can be 'reconditioned' under a heat treatment to burn off any foreign matter. It is resistant to harsh water treatment chemicals such as chlorine, which would usually break down a polymer membrane."
The research team will continue to build expertise in membrane technology for demonstrating the potential of this technology through commissioning and operation of pilot desalination plants.