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The application of the membrane techniques carries many advantages, which include:

  • low power consumption, which is the low energy consumption in processes utilising the membrane techniques

Generally, during the implementation of the membrane processes the energy required to perform the process is connected with the work of pumps feeding the liquid or gas to the membrane. If the pumps are appropriately matched to the system and determining the system operating point for feeding into the system, the required energy can be reduced to absolute minimum. The membrane systems also draw energy necessary for supplying the control system, however, that energy is equal to the energy drawn to also control the other processes.

For example, to obtain 1 m3 of demineralised water using the reverse osmosis technique, the required energy is 18 MJ. For comparison, the same water can be obtained with distillation method using the energy of 62 MJ.

  • lack of solid wastes apart from the elements of the separated mixture as the process does not require any additional chemical compounds

The membrane processes use in their functioning purely physical phenomena. Which means that during the processes no chemical reactions are taking place. The sum of the feeding ingredients for the membrane system is equal to the sum of ingredients leaving the system in streams of permeate and retentate.

The principal of operation of the membrane processes is based on using the differences in physical properties of the separated substances. Those properties include especially the size of the substances, their ability to diffuse and dissolve, or the polarity.

In most of the membrane processes the separation of the mixture elements is done without the change in their aggregation. In the processes where the change in aggregation is occurring, e.g. pervaporation process, there are no changes to the chemical composition.

The undoubted advantage of purely physical separation of substances is easier compliance with regulations regarding the environment by the lack of production of chemically charged wastes.

No necessity for using the additional chemical substances that support the membrane process influences the economy of performing those processes by eliminating the purchase and usage of such substances, and their utilisation afterwards.

  • scalability (modular systems) and conducting the processes continuously

the membrane processes are conducted in special compartments – the membranes. The membranes, as filtration barriers, may have any surface – from only a few mm2 (laboratory systems) to theoretically infinity. The surface of the membrane is connected with the efficiency of the membrane system. The quality of the product, however, is not dependant on the membrane surface.

This fact allows the engineers for an easy adjustment of the membrane system efficiency to the requirements of the conducted process (customer's requirements). The system efficiency can be altered at any moment by increasing or decreasing of the filter surface, which, in practice, means adding or deducting the membrane modules installed in the system.

The methods preventing the stream of filtration from decreasing in time used in membrane processes (crossflow filtration, back flushing) allows to conduct the process in constant and undisrupted way for very long time.

  • ability to combine easily the membrane processes with other unit processes

Every membrane process can be treated as a unit operation. What it means is that particular membrane processes can be combined with each other in order to obtain the more accurate purification and fractionation of products. The ability of combining the membrane processes is also extended to other non-membrane processes. That property allows to make the membrane process an element of larger technological sequence. Only the technological issues will decide about the placement of membrane techniques in that process - at the beginning, in the middle or at the end. However, in every case of the industrial practice it turns out that presence of the membrane process in technological sequence (as long as it is justified) increases the effectiveness of the whole technology.

An example of combining the membrane techniques with classical techniques used in water treatment can be the following technological sequence: sand filter > bag filter > microfiltration > reverse osmosis > ion exchange bed > UV lamp.

  • low general cost of process

The cost of the membrane process is mainly the cost of energy needed to supply the feeding pumps for the liquid or gas to the membrane. During the normal operation of the membrane system it is the only economically noticeable stream of energy consumed by the process.

Due to purely physical separation of the mixtures and the lack of formation of additional waste streams charged with chemicals, the cost of waste management is reduced. The economy can be observed through the lack of necessity of purchasing the chemical elements that support the filtration, the materials that are quickly expended, but also through the lack of necessity of managing large streams of heavy wastes.


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