a brand new material platform for membrane filtration
Membranes today are predominantly made of polymers or ceramics. Most polymer membranes have limitations in the range of operating conditions that allow them to retain their integrity. Ceramic membranes can only separate molecules and compounds so small. The Via NUfiltration platform exhibits the nano-scale molecular filtration of polymers with the size exclusion mechanism and range of operating conditions of ceramics by introducing a brand new material to the separation toolkit.
These membranes look different from polymers, but they can wrap up into a spiral configuration just the same way. The scaffold material, graphene oxide, is robust and inert. The graphene oxide flakes have hydrophilic surfaces that inhibit fouling and encourage fast flow. Via’s scalable and proprietary solution processing methods result in a mechanically strong membrane construction with excellent uniformity.
Small, sharp molecular cutoffs
Polymer membranes rely on electrostatic repulsion to inhibit the flow of small molecules across the surface of the membrane. As a result, the cutoffs are fixed and rejection isn’t perfect. Via’s membranes leverage size exclusion, which means that molecules are sorted by size and not charge. This produces new cutoffs, sharper cutoffs, and more effective rejection or retention.
Expansive operating regime
At the nanometer scale (<1000 MW cutoffs), polymers are limited in their preferred operating conditions. Via’s ability to tolerate elevated temperatures, solvent environments, and oxidizers for cleaning protocols or feed streams significantly expands the range of separations accessible to membranes. Key separations of interest are acid or base concentration, monomer/oligomer separation, and sugar and biosynthetic fractionations.
Augments existing infrastructure
Membranes are a modular and low-cost solution to capacity expansion. For flows up to 30,000,000 gallons/day a bank of membranes de-bottlenecks a process with a very low footprint and no furnace requirement. Concentrating a stream prior to thermal separation or polishing a fine chemical before shipment increases resource utilization and the purity of the value stream.
Cost-effective transition to membranes
The introduction of reverse osmosis membranes for seawater desalination in the 1970s initiated a more than 50% decrease in the energy requirement for desalination, paving the way for widespread implementation. Via is leading the charge to a similar transition for industrial process separations.