Forward Osmosis Water Purification Membranes for Small Operations

EPA Contract Number: EPD12023
Title: Forward Osmosis Water Purification Membranes for Small Operations
Investigators: Tsai, Chung-Yi A
Small Business: T3 Scientific LLC
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: March 1, 2012 through August 31, 2012
Project Amount: $80,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Drinking Water Treatment and Monitoring


This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project develops a high efficiency forward osmosis water purification membrane for small and remote operations. For remote areas where accessibility to water and electricity grid is not available or cost prohibitive, an energy intensive water purification system does not offer any relief. Other issues such as discharge, maintenance and residual handling further complicate the requirements. This sector is definitely underserved by current technologies. Current desalination technologies such as reverse osmosis (RO) require huge amounts of energy. Forward osmosis (FO), which harnesses the force of nature, emerges as one of the most efficient methods to desalinate water. This process can desalinate water for about half the cost of standard RO desalination. With the help of waste heat, the cost can reach 1/10. The proposed ultrathin FO membrane combines a defect-free ultrathin membrane with a low resistance support to produce a high efficiency FO membrane. To ensure the success of this project, two objectives are laid out: (1) performance that matches the best reported FO membrane in salt rejection and water permeance; and (2) membrane stability for extended period. This membrane is expected to outperform any existing and developmental FO membranes, enabling the use of the energy efficient FO process for water desalination.
This high performance, cost and energy efficient water purification membrane will enable the use of low energy FO process for water desalination to provide water access to small and very small operations, especially for remote areas. This technology requires low capital, operational and maintenance cost, and satisfies safety, handling, maintenance and discharge requirements for remote and small operations, thus enabling water access to arid remote areas. Besides water desalination, the other two largest market segments for this technology are semiconductor manufacturing and pharmaceutical processing. The success of this technology will help to reduce worldwide water shortage, provide water to the less privileged public, create competitive advantage for the United States in water-related technologies, and provide chain benefits to fields such as medical and military applications.

Supplemental Keywords:

water, drinking water, osmosis, forward osmosis, reverse osmosis, water purification, water quality, membrane, desalination, remote areas, semiconductor industry, pharmaceutical industry, SBIR

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report