Durable Hydrophobic Membranes with Reduced Fouling for Water Purification Systems

EPA Contract Number: 68HERC21C0038
Title: Durable Hydrophobic Membranes with Reduced Fouling for Water Purification Systems
Investigators: Harrison, William L
Small Business: NanoSonic Inc.
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Phase: I
Project Period: March 1, 2021 through August 31, 2021
Project Amount: $100,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2021) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Water , SBIR - Clean and Safe Water


The safety, security and survivability of mankind are dependent on clean water. Nearly 41% of Earth’s population lives in water‐stressed areas, and this will be exacerbated by continuing population growth. To obtain an adequate and sustainable supply of water, it is important to improve already existing methods and develop new and effective technologies for water reuse, reclamation and purification. Membrane‐based water purification technologies are hampered by membrane fouling. The objective of this EPA program is to develop and fabricate filtration membranes with antifouling properties through the additive manufacturing of hydrophobic, engineered surfaces. New chemistries paired with optional nanoparticle incorporation will produce designer surfaces on current commercially available porous membranes, which will allow rapid prototyping of effective active layers. Preliminary results show a >220% increase in water flux and water transfer following membrane treatment. This approach shall result in membranes offering higher water flux, lower membrane fouling, and lower energy consumption and system maintenance costs compared to current membranes employed in water treatment.

Polymeric membranes are cost‐effective and provide good selectivity for a wide range of applications. The water treatment membrane market is projected to reach $8.3 billion by 2024, at a compound annual growth rate of 9%. The major drivers for the membranes market include increasing population and urbanization, rising awareness about wastewater reuse, and global industrialization. Additionally, the shift from chemical treatment of water to physical treatment methods and increased regulations on water treatment/discharge all point toward high membrane needs. The increased use of polymers for applications in end‐use industry market segments including food and beverage, chemical processing, power generation, oil and gas, pharmaceutical, and others combine to drive the use of polymeric membranes.