Singapore Membrane Consortium (SG MEM)

SG MEM has been set up as a platform to showcase Singapore’s unique ecosystem for membrane technology and to leverage the same towards developing mutually beneficial collaborations with industrial partners. This end-to-end platform solution encompasses development of Research, Innovation and Enterprise solutions from Materials Discovery and Fabrication, to Modules and Processes, Systems Design and Integration, all the way to Pilot Testing and Optimization. Our ecosystem model hastens the development of industry-relevant technologies and innovations from both our industrial partners as well as our research institutions. We achieve this through leveraging Singapore’s world-class research, dedicated translation and test-bedding capabilities.

Our Technology Offers

Cost Effective Centrifugal Reverse Osmosis

The increase in demand for freshwater during the 20th century has led to a global water-scarcity crisis suffered by 40% of the population in the world. The situation is exacerbated by contamination of freshwater resources, global climate change, industrialization, and rapid population growth. Less than 0.008% of the water on this earth is available for its current population of 7.7 billion people. The only way to increase our available freshwater supply is through desalination of seawater. Desalination via reverse osmosis (RO) membrane technology now dominates the world market. However, an endemic problem of RO desalination is its high-cost relative to freshwater sources. A major contributor to this disparity is the high-pressure pumping cost for RO.

Centrifugal reverse osmosis (CRO) can significantly reduce the pumping cost for RO because it operates close to the minimum energy required for separating freshwater from saltwater. It does this by rotating a membrane module to cause a centrifugal pressure that increases with increasing distance from the axis-of-rotation. As such, the local pressure is only slightly higher than the minimum required for RO. In contrast, conventional RO desalination employs a high-pressure pump to operate the entire membrane module at the maximum pressure. This novel CRO technology can reduce the energy required for a 50% recovery of freshwater from a typical seawater feed by over 30%.

The technology owner is seeking for collaborations with companies interested in licensing this technology for pilot-scale testing and commercial application.

Quorum Quenching for Fouling Control in MBR

Membrane bioreactors (MBR) have been widely used in full-scale plants for wastewater treatment and water reclamation due to its highly compact design and treatment efficiency, low sludge production, and excellent effluent quality. However, membrane fouling remains as a bottleneck for MBR operation as it severely reduces the flux and increases operating and maintenance costs, which accounts for around 60% of the overall operational cost. This technology utilises Alginate-Powder Activated Carbon - Quorum Quenching (APQ) beads to significantly slow down the membrane biofouling rate. This prolongs the membrane lifetime and reduces operational cost.

The tech offer provides a technology package, including production, storage, reactivation, recovery, and reuse methods of APQ beads. MBR technology providers can benefit from this technology to improve the competitiveness of their MBR product and end users can save on overall operational cost.

Membrane Separation for Protein Concentration

Membrane technology has been widely utilized in the water industry while niche applications such as protein separations are relatively lesser known. For protein clarification and concentration processes, decanter centrifuges and hydro-cyclones are usually deployed but may not achieve the required separation quality. Membrane separation methods have proven to bring better separation quality given an edge to potential adopters. This technology relates to a hollow fiber MF and UF membrane developed by Suntar that can replace decanter centrifuge as a concentration method.

Suntar is seeking for co-development partners to explore membrane applications in protein clarification and concentration. Building on a strong foundation in membrane substantial know-how in membrane process separation industries, Suntar would like to partner with the alternative protein and food industry to test bed the hollow fiber membrane technology.

Nature-Inspired Superhydrophobic Membranes For MD

Membrane distillation (MD) is a membrane technology based on the vapour pressure gradient across the porous hydrophobic membrane. MD offers several advantages such as lower operating pressures and insensitive to feed concentration for seawater desalination.

However, the commercialization of MD process has been constrained mainly by the lack of commercially available high-performance MD membranes and high energy consumption. Current state-of-the-art lab-scale fabrication of superhydrophobic membranes for membrane distillation often involve complex surface modifications and/or the massive usage of nanomaterials. However, these methods are often difficult to be scaled up.

Hence, a pure rheological spray-assisted non-solvent induced phase separation (SANIPS) approach has been developed to fabricate superhydrophobic polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) membranes. The resulting membranes are found to have high porosity, superhydrophobic, high liquid entry pressure and hierarchical micro/nanostructures and can be easily scaled up. This facile fabrication method is envisioned to pave the way for large-scale production of superhydrophobic membranes for membrane distillation.

Ultra-Wetting Graphene-based Ultrafiltration Membrane

In recent years, graphene has gained much attention in the field of membrane science and engineering due to its high surface area, mechanical strength and chemical stability. Theoretical analysis has also predicted that graphene-based membranes may exhibit 2-3 orders of magnitude higher permeability than the current state of the art membranes. However, experimental studies show that there are limitations in achieving such improved permeability due to the challenges associated with the fabrication of leak-free porous graphene membranes with very large surface area. EWTCOI’s patented ultra-wetting graphene-based membrane has been developed with a unique method that facilitates the easy scalability of this membrane. The membrane being hydrophilic can operate at very low pressure and thereby can help to reduce 20-50% of the overall energy consumption. Membranes are robust and resist fouling and thereby reduces the frequent cleaning requirement, chemical usage, and downtime. It can be used for all ultrafiltration applications such as pre-treatment to RO, potable water treatment, produced water treatment etc.

EWTCOI is looking for industry partners (membrane manufacturers or system integrators with capabilities to scale-up the membrane) who can bring this technology to market by licensing this technology.

Carbon Quantum Dots based Brackish Water RO Membranes

According to the United Nations, half of the world's population grapples with water scarcity for at least a month each year. To meet heightened demands for clean water, treatment processes are crucial in turning unusable water into a supply that is safe for drinking, sanitation, and industrial use.

For reverse osmosis thin film composite (TFC) membranes bear tiny pores that allow select molecules to pass through while blocking out the rest. However, their ability to block contaminants tends to impede water flow, yielding a lower volume of purified water from the initial supply. The reverse is also true. Enhanced water permeability typically reduces the membrane’s selectivity against unwanted chemicals. To maximise the production of clean water from brackish water, membranes that can overcome these drawbacks must be engineered.

The invention describes an improved, highly permeable TFC membrane for the desalination of brackish water through reverse osmosis, as well as a method for production thereof. Here, functionalised carbon quantum dots (CQDs) are synthesized and incorporated into the selective layer of the membrane.

The technology provider is currently seeking commercial entities interested to license this technology for commercialization.

Membrane Distillation: Hydrophilic & Fouling Resistant

Compared to other desalination technologies, membrane distillation (MD) possesses several advantages, including the tolerance to high salinity, the capability to leverage low-grade heat sources, and the low capital expenditure.

However, MD faces the problems of membrane wetting and fouling when desalinating wastewater and seawater with complex compositions. Membrane wetting is a prominent challenge to MD because it allows direct permeation of the salty feed across membrane pores, resulting in salt passage and process failure. The inherent hydrophobicity of conventional MD membranes increases the fouling propensity of organic foulants (e.g., proteins and oil). The blocks the membrane pores, which leads to a lower water productivity. Oil-induced fouling is particularly relevant to MD because MD has been extensively explored and shown promising to desalinate the produced water from hypersaline shale oil/gas streams.

This technology relates to a novel NF/MD membrane to combat the issue of surfactant-induced wetting in MD. A dense top layer, which mimics the selective layer of NF membranes, is constructed on top of a polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) MD membrane.

We are currently seeking interested commercial entities to license the technology and develop it into a product.

Fouling Resistant Membranes for RO and OSN

Current reverse osmosis (RO) membranes are dominated by polyamide-based thin-film composite (TFC) membranes, which typically show rough surfaces with ridge-and-valley structures that has contributed to high fouling tendency.

This technology relates to smooth fouling resistant TFC membranes which can be fabricated on various support for fouling-resistant RO and organic solvent nanofiltration (OSN) applications. The fabrication process is straightforward and a large variety of supports can be used.

We are seeking interested parties to license and commercialize this technology. Collaborations for projects of mutual interest would also be welcome.

Sustainable Solutions for Chemical Separation and Purification

The chemical separation industry is highly energy intensive. It accounts for about 15% of world’s energy consumption and is one the world’s largest silent polluters, producing more than 10% of the annual global greenhouse gas (GHG) emission.

To tackle this challenge, the technology provider has developed solvent-resistant nanofiltration membranes with nanosized pores to achieve chemical separations at a molecular level without the use of heat. By integrating the technology into the chemical separation processes, this technology can reduce their energy consumption and GHG emissions by 90% and lower their operating cost by up to 50%.

The technology provider is seeking industrial partners for collaboration opportunities and would like to work with partners to identify and solve their pain points in chemical separation processes by utilizing this nanofiltration technology.