Woongjin backs Californian FO membrane‑maker

Korean membrane company Woongjin Chemical Company has signed an agreement with California startup Porifera Inc providing investment for the Silicon Valley company to develop, manufacture and commercialize forward osmosis (FO) membranes at high volume.

Porifera will also gain access to Woongjin‘s global sales and marketing channels.

Porifera’s FO membrane has 2-3 times higher flux and lower salt passage than today’s commercially available cellulose-acetate FO membranes. They are particularly effective in treating challenging waters that foul most membranes.

Woongjin and Porifera anticipate these membranes will open up large markets, particularly in Asia, for cost-effective treatment of highly fouling industrial wastewaters. There is also a significant North American market opportunity for treatment of high-fouling waters resulting from hydraulic fracturing.

Porifera successfully demonstrated the effectiveness of its FO membranes through continuous long-term testing under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program of the US Department of Defense.

Porifera’s membranes were able to treat “challenge” water created by DARPA – containing silt, dust, organic matter and other particulates designed for the express purpose of fouling the membranes. Despite DARPA’s efforts to compromise the membranes, Porifera says that its system ran continuously with virtually no flux decline over the duration of the tests.

“We are very impressed with Porifera’s FO membrane performance”, says Woongjin CEO Chankoo Park. “It is clearly one of the highest performing FO membranes available today. The Woongjin-Porifera partnership will jointly allow us to become the leading suppliers of FO membranes to customers worldwide.”