SBIR Phase I: Selenium Biopolymer Spacers to Prevent Biofouling of Reverse Osmosis Modules

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


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Selenium, LTD
11412 Bee Caves Rd Ste 300
Austin, TX 78738
Principal Investigator, Firm POC


This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project proposes to incorporate antimicrobial properties into the materials of a reverse osmosis (RO) membrane module, providing constant protection from bacterial attachment. Bacterial growth on the surface of RO membranes is a significant problem for the membrane industry, due to both increased energy consumption due to back pressure and cleaning costs. Also, current methods used to remove bacterial growth from membranes lead to additional problems, such as chemical oxidation and damage to the membrane material while minimally impacting bio-film formation. We propose to design and manufacture an organo-selenium bio-composite spacer, which will constantly inhibit bacterial attachment to the RO membrane. This is possible because organo-selenium continuously produces superoxide radicals, which targets bacterial cells with no negative effect upon the surrounding water. The broader/commercial impacts of this research are that the chemical and labor costs for the maintenance of the membranes with organo-selenium will be reduced since the need to take a membrane module offline for cleaning will be reduced or eliminated. In addition, this will also reduce energy requirements to pump the water through the membrane. This is important for the food, water and wastewater reclamation (ie desalinization), health care, and the electronic industries, as many of these sectors employ membrane separation techniques during commercial operation.