Aqua Membranes collaborates with Micron Technology to lower water fouling fourfold

Water technology company Aqua Membranes has shared preliminary results of an ongoing pilot project with US memory chip manufacturer, Micron Technology after two years.

Comparing between Aqua Membranes printed spacer technology and a standard reverse osmosis (RO) with traditional mesh element architecture at Micron’s Boise, Idaho fabrication plant, the teams observed a 20% drop in overall system energy consumption after 4 months of continuous operation of the pilot with the printed spacer technology. The feed to reject pressure drop (dP) — a measurement used to gauge water fouling in RO applications — also improved, averaging 6.03 pounds per square inch (PSI) with mesh versus 0.6PSI with printed spacers.

In 2021, Micron invested in Aqua Membranes to help accelerate the development of their printed spacer technology in microelectronics applications. Micron plans to continue testing the technology in different RO applications and evaluate performance against other commercially available membranes for its full-scale systems. “Utilising Aqua Membranes’ components in our RO water treatment systems to reduce energy consumption and the associated emissions supports Micron’s commitment to sustainability,” said Elizabeth Elroy, vice-president of global EHS and sustainability at Micron.   

The pilot system consists two identical units running in parallel, which allows the printed spacer technology to run in direct comparison with mesh spacers employed in the same RO skid. Variable frequency drives (VFD) are used to adjust primary pressure on each system and maintain a constant 63 gallons per minute (GPM) of product water at a recovery rate of 65% from the 16 element systems. Banking was 3:1 with four vessels total and four elements per vessel.

A slower rate of fouling allows for longer intervals between cleaning, which results in lower maintenance costs and extends the longevity of the membrane life. This, combined with the lower energy consumption, shows Aqua Membranes’ printed spacer technology elements potential to lower the cost of RO membrane operation. Micron is now exploring this usage in its high volume fabs, including at its planned facility in Clay, New York, US.