Water Online

May 2017

Water Innovations gives Water and Wastewater Engineers and end-users a venue to find project solutions and source valuable product information. We aim to educate the engineering and operations community on important issues and trends.

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and, one day, could be made on-site to respond to specific contamination problems. "We think that shaped membranes could help reduce fouling and increase the area of the membrane that can be used in a typical membrane plant," said Patterson. "Additionally, the on-site production of membranes that are tailored to the separations needed would also be possible, allowing a quicker response and unprecedented changes in water and wastewater composition." There are, however, still limitations on the use of this technology to build treatment membranes. Primarily, 3D printers aren't yet equipped to produce them. "3D-printed membranes are currently limited by the resolution and build size of the current 3D printers," said Patterson. "We really are waiting for the 3D printing technology to catch up with our ambitions to allow 3D printing to become a realistic and cost-effective membrane production technology." That being said, the researchers are so enthusiastic about the potential for 3D printers to revolutionize water and wastewater treatment that they don't want their thinking to be stunted by what's currently possible. Patterson mentioned the possibility of one day printing the membrane and module all in one piece, but out of different materials, creating a membrane with a range of different pores and surface structures to optimize flux. The membrane then becomes capable of selectively removing and recovering the molecules and particles that cause fouling and utilizing materials that don't age, to increase the lifespan of a membrane. "We don't want to be limited to what is currently available in the membrane market," said Patterson. "We want to be able to do things that are not currently possible. … If these can be realized, then 3D printing could potentially become the go-to technology for membrane fabrication in the future. Given the rate of development of 3D printers, we would estimate that at least some of this will be possible within the next five to 10 years." n wateronline.com n Water Innovations 21 FILTRATION Peter Chawaga is the associate editor for Water Online. He creates and manages engaging and relevant content on a variety of water and wastewater industry topics. Chawaga has worked as a reporter and editor in newsrooms throughout the country and holds a bach- elor's degree in English and a minor in journalism. He can be reached at pchawaga@wateronline.com. About The Author

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