Lessons in Ceramic Membranes
Originally posted on my lab group’s blog.
I have finished my 10-week long program doing research in Sapporo, Japan through funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF)
and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). The research plan that I described in my previous post went smoothly and nearly to completion. Of course, as with any interesting research, there are always more questions to be answered and I will invariably conduct a few more experiments to round out the data set.
Me with a full size ceramic membrane. I used miniature versions of these in my research.
The greatest part of my experience was learning how to use ceramic membranes. Since these are not disposable like the polymeric membranes we have used previously, I learned how to clean and care for the ceramic modules. These are really robust materials! After soaking in acidic and basic solutions, the membrane returns to its original clean water capacity. I also found that the basic solution is much better at removing our carbon materials than the acidic solution, though the reason for this is still unclear.
One skid of housed ceramic membranes.
At the very end of my stay, I had the opportunity to tour a brand-new ceramic membrane water treatment facility. With only ceramic membranes as the treatment unit, the plant footprint was tiny and the capacity far greater than its conventional predecessor. The plant also had infrastructure for producing and dosing superfine powdered activated carbon. The utility’s partnering company is currently exploring the use of this material for removing unwanted contaminants, whether it be natural organic matter (NOM), taste and odor compounds, or other soluble materials. I was excited to learn that my research has current real world applications!
Ceramic membranes are quite popular in Japan, but not so much in the United States. The Japanese company currently has a small office here and is starting to install some test ceramic membrane plants for American utilities. I can’t wait to see how this technology will bloom on this side of the Pacific Ocean. Overall, I’m thankful for this opportunity I had to spend a summer asking lots of questions to knowledgeable people and getting hands-on experience with ceramic membranes.