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Back to Ceramic-WE&T June 2020

WE&T/June 2020
Imran Jaferey and Gilbert Galjaard

Centuries-old material proves its mettle in maximizing financial and operational performance

For almost 25 years, managers and owners of municipal drinking water facilities have relied on polymeric ultrafiltration membrane systems to address the risk of microbial contamination.
These membrane systems have their merits. However, operators also have experienced shortcomings, such as short membrane life and an inability to handle variable feedwaters or recover from upset conditions. Ceramic membranes, on the other hand, have shown to be especially effective at handling upsets partially due to their ability to be cleaned more aggressively particularly in challenging water systems. These factors have made the technology a viable alternative to polymeric membranes. Ceramic-membrane technology has existed for centuries — in various forms.  Today, any membrane that has at least one layer made of ceramic material is classified as a ceramic membrane. Inorganic membranes on a metal or glass support and hybrid membranes with an organic template or top layer are both examples of today’s ceramic membrane.
The most common materials used to manufacture ceramic membranes are alumina, silica, titania, and zirconia (zirconium dioxide ZrO2). Silicon carbide (SiC) membranes are a more recent development and have demonstrated very high permeability in water treatment applications but are more expensive to produce. Therefore, they have much higher capital costs.

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