Rapid developments in membrane technology, particularly in water desalination and the food industry, have led to the formation of the Membrane Society of Australasia.
The society will be launched on 5 May at Victoria University in Melbourne by inaugural chair of the board, Associate Professor Mikel Duke, from VU's Institute for Sustainability and Innovation (ISI).
Speakers include Siemens Water Technologies (SWT) managing director Bruce Biltoft and director of chemistry and membrane development Dr Andrew Groth, who will outline the history of Australia's sole water-treatment membrane manufacturer over the past 25 years. SWT is sponsoring the launch.
Patron of the MSA Professor Tony Fane,from the UNESCO Centre for Membrane Science and Technology at the University of NSW, will talk about membrane science in Australia over the past three decades.
"Membranes may appear to be innocuous to the lay person, but their use in desalination applications has revolutionised water treatment, not to mention food production," Professor Duke said.
"More recently, there has been a major shift towards internationally recognised research and development, including advanced membrane materials such as inorganic, polymeric, nanotechnology and electromaterials.
"This movement has now acquired a critical mass of researchers and industry participants, united in their vision of harnessing the potential of membrane technology to provide innovative solutions to the major global issues of water security, climate change and food quality.
"Work on membrane technology in Australia and New Zealand is some of the best in the world, and the society will provide a platform to disseminate and promote our research and industries internationally."
Professor Duke cited two examples of applied research on membrane technology being conducted at the ISI:
- A pilot solar-powered water desalination project being conducted on behalf of GWMWater, the water authority covering the Grampians, Wimmera and Mallee regions of western Victoria. The plant will be built later this year and will serve as a model for the treatment of non-potable groundwater in remote and regional areas.
- The development of membrane systems for the preparation of concentrated bacterial cultures in association with Dairy Innovation Australia Ltd. This will benefit the Australian dairy industry by providing cheese starter cultures, ultimately for the production of commercial cheeses, at a much lower price.
He also supplied a round-up of research being conducted elsewhere:
- Development of composite membranes for water treatment, gas separation and fuel cells - Associate Professor Huanting Wang and Dr Bradley Ladewig, Monash University.
- Optimisation of membrane filtration processes in both fouling mitigation and the removal of micropollutants for water recycling applications - Dr Long Nghiem, University of Wollongong.
- Technical support into manufacturing, both in New Zealand and abroad, maximising the use of membrane filtration - Ross Harnden-Taylor, New Zealand Dairy producer Fonterra.
- Synthesis, design and optimisation of inorganic membranes derived from silica, metal doped silica, templated carbon silica, carbon molecular sieves and perovskite hollow fibres, for applications in high temperature gas processing for clean coal energy delivery - Associate Professor Joe da Costa, the University of Queensland.
- Design of membranes for achieving optimal oils removal from water using materials such as polycarbonate or alumina. Separation is tuned by adjusting the properties of the surface and pore spaces using self assembled monolayer approaches - Professor Joe Shapter, Flinders University.
"Work on membranes is also being conducted at the University of NSW, the University of Melbourne, the University of South Australia, the University of Auckland and the CSIRO. Businesses Dow Water Solutions, GEA Process Engineering, Integrated Elements and SA Water are also involved in the development and application of membranes," Professor Duke said.
Professor Duke is available for comment. See www.membrane-australasia.org for more details.
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