SBIR Phase I: Polymer Mesocomposites: Novel Materials for Compaction-Resistant, High-Flux Water Treatment Membranes

Period of Performance: 01/01/2012 - 12/31/2012

$150K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Claytec, Inc.
5901 East Sleepy Hollow Ln
East Lansing, MI 48823
Principal Investigator, Firm POC

Abstract

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project is developing novel high flux, compaction-resistant and durable polymer mesocomposite membranes for sustainable drinking water purification and water reuse. The new membranes exhibit 1) superior resistance to internal damage and pore compaction, 2) increased permeability with retention of separation selectivity, and 3) resistance to chemical degradation and mechanical wear with little or no shedding of particles under pressure. The key to our innovation is the use of mesoporous silica particle (MPS) as polymer reinforcing additives and surface polarity modifiers. The MPS additives, which are prepared through surfactant-templated supramolecular assembly processes, have precisely tailored pore sizes in the mesometric range 2 to 50 nm and beyond. Because the MSP pores are larger than the van der Waals diameter of the polymer chains, the polymer can partially penetrate the particle mesopores and bind to membrane pores. The resulting reinforcement, together with the accompanying densification of the membrane, affords the aforementioned advances in water processing performance. To illustrate the technological potential of the innovation, a 5 wt % MSP - polysulfone membrane exhibits a two-fold increase in permeability, a concomitant improvement in rejection selectivity, and a ten-fold decrease in membrane compaction at 40 psi The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is its potential to ease the world's growing needs for clean, potable water. The problems caused by a lack of clean water are legion and include 1.8 million annual deaths from diarrheal diseases, most of which are preventable with access to safe water. A number of techniques are used for transforming non-potable water into potable water. Of these, membrane filtration is widely used in industrial applications due to its ability to efficiently remove virtually all particles larger than 0.2 um. However, for addressing the broader need for clean water, there remains a need for new materials-based strategies for membranes which achieve extended longevity and high flux separations without sacrificing selectivity. This proposed SBIR project will demonstrate that the challenges can be overcome through the invention of a new class of mesoporous membrane composites reinforced with silicate mesophases. Products based on this technology will be sold into the global water purification market, with key customers being some of the world's leading companies in this field.