STTR Phase I: Development of New Technology that addresses Membrane Fouling Challenges in Membrane Based Water Treatment Systems

Period of Performance: 01/01/2016 - 12/31/2016


Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

MicroHAOPs, Inc
8041 Stroud Ave N Array
Seattle, WA 98103
Firm POC
Principal Investigator

Research Institution

University of Washington
Department of Aeronautics&Astronautics, Box 352250
Seattle, WA 98195
Institution POC


The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Technology Transfer Research Phase I project is the potential to dramatically increase the efficiency and lower the cost of treating impaired water to meet drinking water quality criteria. Membrane-based water treatment systems are at the forefront of the effort to address the current and future water crisis facing both developed and developing societies the world over. Modern membrane systems take advantage of tremendous advances in materials science and water treatment technology over the past two decades, and yet they still function very inefficiently with respect to their productivity and energy usage. The innovation that the proposed research will advance addresses this challenge by dramatically reducing membrane fouling, which lies at the root of these inefficiencies. The primary application of the innovation that will be the focus of this research is desalination of brines and seawater. Although the innovation does not remove salt from water directly, it will greatly enhance the performance of desalination by reverse osmosis processes. Given the enormous anticipated growth in the seawater desalination market in coming decades, the commercial potential for the new process is outstanding. The technical objectives in this Phase I project are to demonstrate and optimize the performance of an innovative pre-treatment process that removes from natural waters the contaminants that cause membrane fouling during desalination operations. The new process combines the deposition of a thin layer of heated aluminum oxide particles on a porous support surface and the passage of the raw water through those particles and the support. The particles remove a very large portion of the membrane foulants from the water, so that when it is subsequently desalinated by reverse osmosis, the reverse osmosis system can be operated at higher fluxes for longer times and at lower pressures than is currently possible. Eventually, the pre-deposited particles become saturated and must be replaced with fresh ones. The efficient removal of the particles from the support surface and the uniform and reliable application of a new layer of particles represent major challenges that will be addressed in the research.