Nano pore technology makes clean water production cost effective

The Department of Energy and Materials Technology at Arcada University of Applied Sciences, Helsinki, has made a breakthrough in the development of a new production technology.

Arcada’s track etch membrane research group has been the first in the world to succeed in producing nano-sized pores using a method considered previously to be scientifically impossible.

The method’s most significant advantage is the reduction to less than half of current production costs. Head of Department Dr. Mikael Paronen claimed that the new technology could be important globally in the availability of clean water.

According to the UN over one billion people are affected by lack of access to clean water.

Dirty or salty water can be made drinkable with the technology already available. Current cleaning methods, however, are either too expensive or unreasonably energy intensive.

Of various alternative water treatment methods, those based on nanoporous membranes are technically the most promising but also cost the most.

Such membranes can cost thousands of euros per square metre, and so their otherwise excellent technology attracts only niche applications.

‟Our starting point in the development of new manufacturing technology for nanoporous membranes has been to significantly reduce production costs," says Paronen.

"Our research group has been exceptionally open to exploring alternative manufacturing methods, and in this context we have benefited from combining our experiences and the scientific literature.

‟The group has been driven by an exceptionally strong desire to find a solution.” After about five years of intensive research the group has finally made a breakthrough.

The technology newly developed at Arcada is based on an unexpectedly successful combination of existing technologies and their optimisation.

The new technology permits production of membranes that can filter substances from water based on their size or chemical properties.

The best known solution for producing membranes with this capability is the track etch method. Arcada’s newly developed technology is based partly on the same principle, but with minor modification has transformed production economics to make it cost-effective.

The new production technology enables significant reductions in membrane prices and subsequently broadening future applications of membrane technologies.

The largest volumes will most likely be seen in clean water production and in industrial process water treatment where, for example, the aim is to separate out valuable or hazardous substances.

Arcada’s research, development and innovation group within the Department of Energy and Materials Technology comprises two senior researchers, two laboratory engineers and eight junior researchers.

The RDI group strives to develop exceptionally innovative and cost-effective solutions, as well as improvements to energy and materials efficiency and health-related issues.

The main premise is utilisation of plastics and pure polymers in various forms and applications. Plastics and polymers are advantageous materials due to their corrosion resistance, ease of shaping even on the nano-scale, and potential cost-effectiveness.