A typical scanning electron microscope cross section of a porous membrane

What is the annual production – and sales – volume of FO membranes inside and outside of the U.S.?

Thiforward osmosis spiral wound modules question was recently presented to the ForwardOsmosisTech team by Jean-Matthieu from Kurt Salmon Consulting. During the subsequent email conversation several additional FO topics were touched upon – topic we would like to share with the ForwardOsmosisTech readers. So, without further ado, here’s the email conversation in its entirety:

 


Jean-Matthieu

Hello,

I am trying to get a better understanding of the current size of the FO membranes market. More specifically I would like to quantify the volume of resin currently used to manufacture FO membranes in the US. I believe it would mainly be polysulfone membranes at this stage?

Any resource or info you might have to help would be very appreciated.

Thank you,

Best regards,

Jean-Matthieu


ForwardOsmosisTech – Ed Woode

Hi Jean

Thanks for getting in touch with us. You are correct that most FO membranes today are either polysulfone or polyethersulfone based. According to our experience 1 liter of resin will produce roughly 5 square meter membrane. We estimate the current commercial FO membrane production volume in the U.S. to be less than 100000 square meter per year, bringing the total commercial resin volume to no more than 20000 liters. Besides commercial production there are also numerous ongoing R&D projects relating to FO membrane development. We estimate the yearly resin volume used for R&D projects to be less than or equal to the commercial volume. We hope our answer helps.
One a side note, please let us know if you are OK with us posting your question on our FO website. It may generate additional input to you from industrial players and the topic will definitely interest our readers.
Cheers
Ed

Jean-Matthieu

Hi Ed,

Thanks for your response.

Sure, please feel free to use our conversation for your website

Also, 2 other questions:

  • How big is the market outside the US?
  • How fast is this market growing? Oasys seems to be doubling its revenue in 2015, is that representative of a trend in your opinion?

Thank you,

Best regards,

Jean-Matthieu


ForwardOsmosisTech – Ed Woode

Hi Jean

Thanks for agreeing to let our conversation be published on ForwardOsmosisTech. Here’s my feedback to your questions from August 20th:

How big is the market outside the US:

Outside the US, FO-based industrial systems – to our knowledge – are mainly being commercialized in China by Oasys. In addition, we are aware of commercial FO activities in the following countries:

United Kingdom – Modern Water have been operating a FO desalination pilot plant in Oman for many years. Recently the company took a strategic decision to reposition their FO products towards industrial waste-water. We don’t have information at hand on sales volumes after the repositioning. Prior to the shift in focus, Modern Water’s membrane division was struggling.

South Korea / Japan – Woongjin Chemical invested in Porifera (US based FO membrane and system developer) back in 2013. Later Woongjin was acquired by Toray (a Japanese conglomerate with many commercial activities in the reverse osmosis, nanofiltration, ultrafiltration, and MBR segments). We don’t have information on FO related sales volumes at hand.

Denmark – Aquaporin A/S is developing and commercializing FO membranes for pilot testing in industrial waste-water applications. We don’t have information on FO related sales volumes at hand.

Since most of the industrial FO sales outside the U.S seem to be currently dominated by Oasys (which we already accounted for previously in the estimation of the U.S based sales volume) we estimate the annual sales volume of FO membranes outside the U.S to be less than 20000 square meter per year.

How fast is the market growing?

FO based products are still in the introduction stage of the product life cycle. Sales volumes are very low compared to other membrane technologies and commercialization takes places in niche segments. However, as you mentioned yourself, Oasys seems to be getting some good traction recently, which will hopefully move FO based products into the growth stage within the next 1-3 years.

Cheers
Ed

Jean-Matthieu

Hi Ed,

Again thanks for your response.

I have another question: what are the other materials that enter the composition of an FO membrane, other than PSU? What is the ratio of PSU to those other materials?

Thanks for your help.

It’s a fascinating topic.

Best,

Jean-Matthieu


ForwardOsmosisTech – Ed Woode

Hi Jean

Polysulfone makes up the bulk material in FO membranes today. However, almost all FO membranes also contain a thin (200 nanometer) polymeric rejection layer on top of the polysulfone base. The rejection layer is typically formed by inter-facial polymerization where the polysulfone base is first soaked with an aqueous solution containing m-phenylenediamine (MPD) and then brought into contact with an organic phase containing Trimesoly Chloride (TMC). Usually, a wide range of additives are included in the aqueous and organic solutions to tailor the final FO membrane properties. Based on the typical thickness of FO membranes (100-200 micrometer), the rejection layer accounts for 0,1-0,2% of total membrane material consumption.

Cheers

Ed

NB! Featured image from http://www.egr.msu.edu

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