Sea water has been known to be toxic for immediate consumption as the human body is unable to get rid of the salt inherent in it. The salt in the saline water but sea water can be converted into freshwater ready for consumption in a process is called “desalination“.
The Korea Institute of Engineering in this new discovery developed a membrane distillation process where sea water will be drinkable and edible for human consumption.
According to te researchers, the biggerst challenge in the membrane dustillatyion process is membrane wetting. It goes to show that in the process of the distillation experiment, if a membrane shows an inclination of wetting, it has to be replaced immediately and this may be damn hectic. To curtail this, the researchers developed what is kniwn as a stable performance electrospun nanofiber membrane.
It has beeb noticed in most long-term operations that membrane wetting in the process of distillation leads to inaccuracy in result and poor effectiveness, producing permeated low quality and this charged the Korean researchers to come up with a solution by developing a co-axial electro spun using nano- Technology as an alternative.
This alternative also known as ‘electrospinning, will help solve the problem of shortage of drinkable water worldwide with more people all over the world having access to drinkable clean water.
To produce a co-axial composite membrane, the researchers had to use polyvinylidene fluoride-co-hexafluoropropylene as the core and silica aerogel mixed with a low concentration of the polymer as the outer sheath. It prevents membrane wetting occurrence and also provides a long sustainable stability for the distillation process. The methodology in material productionhere paves way for a good and easy option to produce more membranes with three-dimensional hierarchical structures.
Not done, the researchers were also able to achieve a superhydrophobic membrane surface taking cognizance of thelevel at which the silica aerogel depicted a much lower thermal conductivity than conventional polymers leading to an increased water vapor flux during the membrane distillation process.
At the end of the day, the issue of membrane wetting was overcome allowing effective membrane distillation, in the process taking away the bad smell noticeable in sea water
The membrane performed at 99.99 percent salt rejection for a month while on the contrary, other studies using electrospunnanofiber membranes in membrane distillation applications operated less than 50 hours although they exhibited a high water vapor flux performance.
In summary, the Korean institute research team, noted that it is better to always have a stable process than a high water vapor flux performance especially in a commercially available membrane distillation operation.