Membranes story…

As the french song says ” des petits trous, des petits trous, toujours des petits trous” ( “little holes, little holes, always little holes”. Membranes,filters and other components with holes play a crucial role in water treatment to achieve water purification and decontamination.

We saw it in Israel in the desalination plant of Ashkelon with big rolls of filters, we saw it in India to clean the water. So, membranes are everywhere et we had to see the last innovations in this field before leaving Singapore. We look for something, we look for something else and then: a word draws our attention “biomimetic” on the website of Aquaporin, a company which develops and produces innovation water treatment membranes: a common subject began immediately very interesting.

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So, we come back to CleanTech 2 after our first quick passage with Ecosoft: this Singapourean building tries to have a very low impact for the environment. Inside it, we find Mark Perry who will present Aquaporin. After two slides, the goal is clear for this company founded in 2005 in Denmark: to become a world leading membrane supplier thanks to their novel technology.

But what is this “biomimetic” technology? Aquaporin draws from the best engineer of the world: Nature! Why do you invent unlikely technologies when what is in front of your eyes can inspire you?

So Aquaporin used the eponymous molecule to achieve membrane filtration at a very high effiency. You may know that 60% of your body is made of water. This water comes and goes out from our cells to make it ensure the vital functions. In 1992, Peter Agre discovered the molecules in charge of those transfers: the aquaporin group up proteins, which work like a pipe that only allows water to pass through. There are a lot of kinds but all have similar characteristics:

-ultra selective: water molecule only can go through

-high-efficiency: 1g of aquaporin molecules can filter 2900L of water per second!
Aquaporin have succeeded in incorporating aquaporin proteins on a support material ( its seems easy when you say it but in reality, it represents years of research and some patents.

“And so what?” you will say ” there are already a lot of membranes, a new technology, what is the goal?” It becomes interesting!

In the Ashkelon plant, to clean the sea water from salt; it needs a very high pressure on one side to push the water molecules through the filters with very little holes. Those filters will stop the ions. This is the reverse osmosis. Big compressor fed by the energy of a energy plant produce this big pressure.

By utilizing the ultra-selective and high-efficient aquaporin molecules, reverse osmosis can be achieved by reduced pressure.

The outcome: you consume less energy to clean the water! Yes to biomimetics!

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