WRF Awards Research Contract to Examine Self-Healing Membranes for Water Reuse

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The Water Research Foundation recently awarded a contract to Yale University to begin research on a project titled Self-Healing Hydrogel-Composite Membranes: From Proof of Concept to Water Reuse Application

The main goal of the project is to evaluate the performance of first-generation composite membrane under a wide range of conditions to optimize self-healing for faster technology transfer to industry.

Self-healing refers to the ability of materials to restore their original properties after being damaged. Many self-healing chemistries — such as using natural diffusion of polymeric chains or using microencapsulated healing agents — can't be easily applied to water filtration because of moisture sensitivity. Hydrogels are a preferred option for self-healing because they can absorb a large amount of water while maintaining their structure.

Previously, hydrogels had not been studied in water filtration membranes until the first-generation hydrogel pore-filled membranes showed promising self-healing properties. This project has four main objectives to demonstrate the promise of hydrogels under different practical water reuse scenarios:

• Optimization of hydrogel properties

• Optimization of modification depth for improved permeability

• Improving self-healing properties via ionic additives

• Validation of chemical and physical stability

The research team aims to meet quantifiable targets of self-healing hydrogel composite membranes including permeability, selectivity, self-healing property and long-term performance. The successful translation of this research to water reuse could improve the sustainability and flexibility of membrane systems significantly, accelerating the transfer of water filtration membrane technology to geographical regions where long-term maintenance is often the greatest bottleneck.

The project is expected to be completed in early 2019.


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