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Membrane Separation

Membrane separation is a technology which selectively separates
(fractionates) materials via pores and/or minute gaps in the molecular
arrangement of a continuous structure. Membrane separations are
classified by pore size and by the separation driving force.
(, 16/6/16) It could be defined
essentially as a barrier which separates two phases and restricts
transport of various molecules in a selective manner.

Figure 1: Basic principle of membrane separation

Process principle
Membrane processes are characterized by the fact that a feed
stream is divided into 2 streams: retentate and permeate. The most
general process can be depicted by the following

Figure 2: General process of membrane separation

The retentate is that part of the feed that does not pass through the
membrane, while the permeate is that part of the feed that does pass
through the membrane. The optional "sweep" is a gas or liquid that is

used to help remove the permeate. The component(s) of interest in

membrane separation is known as the solute. The solute can be retained
on the membrane membrane and removed in the retentate or passed
through the membrane in the permeate.
It is important to note that there are 3 different mechanisms by
which membrane can perform separations:
-By having holes or pores which are of such a size that certain species can
pass through and others cannot. This mechanism is called size exclusion.
-By selective retardation by the pores when the pore diameters are close
to molecular sizes. This mechanism is called pore flow.
-By dissolution into the membrane, migration by molecular diffusion
across the membrane, and re-emergence from the other side. This is
called solution diffusion.

There are two modes used for membrane filtration - direct (or 'dead
end') flow and cross-flow.
In direct flow, the full raw water feed supply passes
directly through the filter similar to conventional sandfiltration. These filters require periodic cleaning (or back
washing) of membranes.

Figure 3: direct flow


In contrast, a cross flow filtration mode employs a

high velocity of raw water feed flowing in parallel over
(across) the membrane surface. This flow keeps the
membrane surface from fouling or accumulating solids.
Figure 4: cross flow

The appropriate filtration mode should be selected by taking into account

factors such as fluid composition, membrane material, selectivity of the
membrane, filtration module geometry, and cleaning methods.

Types of equipment
Membrane modules come in two basic configurations; 1- self-contained,
and 2- open immersion type.
The most common module type for ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis
membranes is the self-contained (or housed) membrane module where feed
water is pumped through the housing. All feed, concentrate, and filtrate piping
connections are integral to the module.
The open immersion type modules are placed into the feed water tank
with the membrane exposed.


-Reverse Osmosis
Desalination of brackish water
Treatment of wastewater to remove impurities
Treatment of surface and ground water
Concentration of foodstuff
Removal of alcohol from beer and wine
Separation of nickel sulfate from sulphuric acid
Removal of waste metabolites, excess body water, and restoration of
electrolyte balance in blood
Production of table salt from seawater
Concentration of brines from reverse osmosis
Treatment of wastewater from electroplating
Demineralisation of cheese whey
Production of ultrapure water for semiconductor industry
Sterilisation of drugs
Clarification of biological stabilisation of beverages
Purifications of antibiotics
Separation of mammalian cells from a liquid