2011 R&D 100 Winner
Commercial reverse osmosis (RO) membrane technology has advanced only incrementally over the last 30 years. However, Biomimetic Membranes for Water Purification, developed by Albuquerque-based Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico, represent a new approach to biomimetic membrane design and fabrication. The invention uses self-assembly and atomic layer deposition (ALD) to advance the field of membrane technology for water filtration.
The selective high-flux desalination membranes are based on self-assembled ALD-tuned nanopores to emulate the structures of natural membrane-bound biological channels. The membranes are designed for water purification using reverse osmosis technology, which removes impurities from water with applied pressure powered by electrical energy. The membranes reject salts and larger solution components, thus creating drinking water.
The nonporous biomimetic design enables high salt rejection and faster water flow at lower driving pressures than competing membranes, reducing the energy cost of desalination. At low pressures around 5.5 bar, the biomimetic membrane achieves an order-of-magnitude improvement in membrane permeability to water flow compared to commercial membranes, and still maintains high salt rejection ratios.
|(l-r): Kevin Leung, David Rogers, Jeff Brinker, Susan Rempe, Ying-Bing Jiang, Shaorong Yang|
The Biomimetic Membranes for Water Purification Development Team
Susan Rempe, Primary Developer, Sandia National Laboratories
C. Jeffrey Brinker, University of New Mexico
Ying-Bing Jiang, University of New Mexico
Kevin Leung, Sandia National Laboratories
David M. Rogers, Sandia National Laboratories
Sameer Varma, Sandia National Laboratories
Shaorong Yang, University of New Mexico