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Comment Water Treatment

Vacuum-aided membrane distillation results in ultra-pure water

By Mary Page Bailey |

At Achema 2018 (June 11–15; Frankfurt am Main, Germany), EvCon GmbH (Pliening-Landsham, Germany; www.evcon-water.com) showcased its new UPWater treatment system, which employs a patented vacuum multi-effect membrane distillation (VMEMD) technology to obtain ultra-pure water using less energy than comparable water-treatment processes. VMEMD uses a hydrophobic membrane constructed of corrosion-resistant plastics with 0.1- to 0.5-μm pores fine-tuned to be permeable only to high-purity steam. The membrane selectively rejects any impurities in the feedwater stream along with the water itself. At vacuum conditions, water and pure steam are passed through different membrane stages, or effects (diagram). The steam and water progressively condense and evaporate as they pass through the system, and as more water impurities are trapped by the membranes, a stream of pure water is created. Steam flows through the system efficiently due to the pressure and temperature differentials between the membrane effects, which also help to induce controlled condensation.

“The heating steam condenses, transferring its heat to the feed, which is evaporated. Steam is collected within the effect and is used for heating in the next step,” says Norbert Borgmann, development and project manager for EvCon. Lower operating temperatures further contribute to UpWater’s thermal efficiency. “The multi-effect distillation process is run in a vacuum so that evaporation can occur at temperatures under 100°C,” explains Borgmann.

EvCon has run prototype systems for pharmaceutical manufacturers and also demonstrated the system’s robustness in handling sugar-containing solutions. The first company to utilize this technology commercially is Rochem Separation Systems India Ltd. (Mumbai; www.rochemindia.com). According to Prerak Goel, director of Rochem Separation Systems, the company operates five UpWater units across India, including installations treating wastewater from a steel mill and a pharmaceutical production site. “One benefit is the possibility to have a metal-free concentration unit that can handle different kinds of chemistries with no corrosion issues,” says Goel. He mentions that Rochem plans to add several additional UpWater units later this year.

membrane distillation

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