Thin-film nanocomposite membranes leverage nanotechnology to change the structure of the thin-film of a reverse osmosis (RO) membrane. It is this thin-film that dictates the permeability and salt rejection of the membrane and therefore the economics of a desalination plant. Benign nanomaterials are introduced during the synthesis process of a traditional polymer film to produce a nanocomposite RO membrane with exceptional properties. By inserting nanomaterial into its patented TFN membrane, LG Chem has improved key performance characteristics by controlling membrane structure. The polymer thin film is formed when an aqueous monomer solution contacts an organic monomer solution and a thin film is formed. Nanomaterials are added to one or both monomer solutions and are completely encapsulated within the newly formed film. Figure 1 is a cross-section of LG Chem’sTFN membrane.
LG Chem's TFN membranes have demonstrated a 50-100% increase in permeability when compared to the installed base of RO membranes. This increased permeability means less pressure is required to force the migration of fresh water through the membrane, thus lowering a desalination plant’s energy costs. In addition, the enhanced permeability of these membranes also leads to an increase in the amount of fresh water produced, given a certain pressure, over typical thin-film composite membranes.
LG Chem has further improved the membrane’s chemistry to provide increased salt-rejection over traditional membranes, resulting in better fresh water quality.