Accelerating Membrane Distillation Technology Development to Expand Sumitomo Electric’s Water Treatment Business
-Tapping New Markets in a New Field-
Sumitomo Electric was the world’s first manufacturer to develop the technology used to make fluoropolymer polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) porous through drawing and has supplied the porous material under the name “POREFLON™.” In the early 2000s, the Company developed a water treatment membrane module incorporating hollow fibrous POREFLON™ and has shipped the module to various markets in Asia and North America, as well as in Japan, for water and sewage treatment and various industrial wastewater treatment applications. With the aim of further expanding its business, Sumitomo Electric has recently signed a memorandum of understanding concerning membrane distillation development with KMX Technologies LLC in the United States. The two companies will promote a joint technology development project to cultivate new markets in new fields.
What is POREFLON™?
POREFLON™ is Sumitomo Electric’s original porous material made of PTFE, which is superbly chemical resistant, heat resistant, and durable.
PTFE is a material that inherently has low affinity for water, or is greatly hydrophobic. Sumitomo Electric has made it possible to use it for membrane-filtration water treatment applications by improving its affinity for water through the Company’s proprietary process, making POREFLON™ highly hydrophilic.
In the photo shown at the upper right, the areas pictured in black (pores) allow water to pass through. The mesh-like white PTFE fibers precisely separate solid content. Thus, the product is utilized as a water-treatment filter membrane with high water transmissibility and clarification.
What is membrane distillation?
Membrane distillation is a water treatment process, or a technology that allows steam to permeate a membrane, utilizing the difference in boiling point between water and substances to be separated from the raw water. Unlike membrane filtration applications, membrane distillation requires a membrane to have hydrophobicity and heat resistance, which are inherent properties of PTFE materials. The hollow POREFLON™ fiber membrane developed by Sumitomo Electric is highly hydrophobic, heat resistant, and water resistant. These characteristics are very useful in membrane distillation systems.
How can the membrane distillation technology be used for future approaches?
The membrane distillation technology incorporating POREFLON™ enables high-efficiency recovery of water and valuables from wastewater and waste volume reduction. The technology can be used in a wide range of applications, including the recovery of rare-earth metals from coal mine drainage, seawater desalination, and volume reduction of the desalination byproduct, that is, concentrated seawater (highconcentration salt water). This way the membrane distillation technology helps provide water resources and reduce environmental burden.
In addition, with the aim of building a sustainable society, Sumitomo Electric actively uses waste heat produced by power plants and solar energy and other renewable energy sources to supply power to membrane distillation systems.
Sumitomo Electric is committed to solving water treatment challenges around the world and to conserving the global environment by drawing on its years of experience in water treatment technology, promoting technology development and supplying its quality products.