Breakthrough in reverse osmosis

As a specialist in membrane material sciences, H2MO has developed and utilised Bio-Programmable Membrane (BPM) technology to manufacture reverse osmosis (RO) membranes in hollow fibre configuration. These BPM-RO membranes are made by forming a thin selective layer on a hollow fibre substrate with a formulation of bio-materials, giving the BPM membranes highly selective characteristics and enhanced water permeability.

The application BPM-RO membrane supports include potable water, ultrapure water, wastewater treatment and recycling, zero-discharge and desalination.

H2MO is commercialising the BPM technology developed by a team led by Prof Wang Rong at Nanyang Technology University (NTU) in conjunction with PUB, Singapore’s national water agency. The company further worked with the team for technology scale-up to enable a new generation of membranes that can be used to play a key role in the management of Singapore’s critical water resources. In an interview with Water & Wastewater Asia, Ong Tze Guan, founder and CEO of H2MO, discussed more on this project with PUB and the transformative role BPM can bring forth to the wider RO market.

Can you elaborate on the project with PUB – the main objective and how the installation of BPM-RO supports Singapore’s quest for water security?
Ong Tze Guan:
The project funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Singapore and PUB was to develop a bio-mimetic ultra-permeable membrane with enhanced performance compared to existing membranes. Our team took inspiration from the biomolecules of cell membranes and succeeded in developing our hollow-fibre (HF) bio-mimetic membrane in 2018.

H2MO’s HF bio-mimetic membrane was made with the use of cellular biomolecules, without the need for Aquaporin, and we can alter the characteristics of the membrane through modifications of our synthetic biomolecules. This is what we call BPM and this platform technology enables us to make a host of membranes from RO to nanofiltration and forward osmosis membranes.

We currently have two pilot systems operating at PUB’s Ulu Pandan Water Reclamation Plant to verify its performance under real-time operations; we have a 14m3/day system using 4-inch modules and a 100m3/day using 8-inch modules; the 14m3/day pilot has been in operation for about a year and the larger 100m3/day system was recently installed.

The results from the pilot system revealed a 70-110% higher flux compared to conventional membranes, consumers about 40% less energy under similar operation and showed superior foulding resistance. Furthermore, there is a potential to achieve higher water recovery.

The full article is available in the latest edition of Water & Wastewater Asia May/Jun 2022 issue. To continue reading, click here.