Advancements in Membrane Technology

Updated on May 7, 2020
1701TheOriginal profile image

Leonard Kelley holds a bachelor's in physics with a minor in mathematics. He loves the academic world and strives to constantly explore it.

Source

Oftentimes in material sciences we need to filter, isolate, or change objects, and membranes are a great way to accomplish this. Oftentimes challenges arise with them including manufacturing, durability, and achieving the desired results. So let’s take a look at how some of these hurdles have been overcome in the field of membrane technology.

Nanofiber Filters

Getting dust, allergens, and the like out of the air is a real challenge, so when scientists from the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Biophysics of the Russian Academy of Sciences announced a filter than is made of nylon nanofibers, it got people’s attention. The filters are only 10-20 milligrams per square meter and allow 95% of light to shine through it, and are capable of capturing objects that are greater than 1 micrometer in length. The fibers themselves are so small that they allow more air through than classical aerodynamics calls for because the size was now smaller than the average distance an air particle travels before a collision. This all stems from the manufacturing technique involving a broken down polymer of one charge being sprayed on one side while ethanol is sprayed with the opposite charge on the other. They then merge and form the film upon which the filter is made of (Roizen).

Source

Replicating Nature

Humans often try to take the properties of nature as a starting point for inspiration. After all, it seems like nature has a lot of complicated systems operating rather smoothly. Researchers from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found a way to copy one of the most basic features nature has to offer: cell membranes. Often made of lipids, these membranes allow materials in and out of the cell according to their makeups yet retain their shape despite their miniscule size, but making an artificial one is difficult to do. The team was able to overcome these difficulties using a lipid-like material known as a peptoid, which mimics a lipids basic feature of a chain of molecules which has a fatty receptor at one end and a water receptor at the other. When the peptoid chains were out into a liquid, they began to arrange themselves into nanomembranes which have a high durability in many different solutions, temperatures, and acidities. How the membranes exactly form is still a mystery. Potential uses for the synthetic material include lower-energy water filtration as well as selective drug treatments (Beckman).

In a Similar Vein

This prior peptoid membrane isn’t the only new option on the market. Scientists from the University of Minnesota have found a way to use a “crystal growth process for making ultra-thin layers of material with molecular-sized pores,” otherwise known as zeolite nanosheets. Like the peptoids, these can filter on a molecular level with both the size of the object as well as its spatial properties. Because of the crystal nature of zeolites, it encourages a growth around any given seed into a lattice which makes for great applications (Zurn).

Crystal grown membranes.
Crystal grown membranes. | Source

Extracting Hydrogen

One of the world’s best fuel sources is hydrogen, but trying to extract it from the environment is challenging because of its bonding to other elements. Enter MXene, a nanomaterial developed by Drexel University that utilizes a thin gap inside the membrane to separate larger elements while allowing hydrogen to travel through it unimpeded, according to work from South China University of Technology and Drexel’s College of Engineering. The material has its porous nature carved out of it, allowing for selectivity in its channel which can be customized beyond just a physical barrier but also using its chemical properties as well, absorbing elements we don’t want as well (Faulstick).

Extracting hydrogen.
Extracting hydrogen. | Source

Bodily Monitoring

A frequent dream of science fiction writers is smart wear that reacts to changes with our bodies. An early forefather of one of those suits has been developed by KJUS. Their ski jumpsuit actively pumps out sweat from the skin of the user, allowing them to modulate their temperature better and prevent risk of hypothermic effects. To accomplish this, membranes are located in the back of the suit with “an electrically conductive fabric,” and the membranes themselves have billions of small openings. With a minute electrical impulse, the holes act like pumps and pull the moisture away from the skin. The new suit can operate in extreme temperatures and also doesn’t diminish the breathability of the user. Pretty awesome! (Klose)

A New Way

Normally, small membranes are reinforced with atomic layer deposition, which involves manipulating vapors to condense and create a desired surface. Argonne National Laboratory has created a new method known as sequential infiltration synthesis which overcomes the major hurdle of the past, namely that the coating would restrict the openings present on the membrane because of the stacked layers. With the sequential method, we are changing the membrane itself from within, no longer losing our desired properties for the membrane. With polymer-based membranes, one can infuse it with inorganic substances that increase the rigidness of the material as well as the inertness of the substance (Kunz).

More surprises are to come in the future! Come back soon to see the latest updates to membrane technology.

Polymer-based membranes.
Polymer-based membranes. | Source

Works Cited

Beckman, Mary. “Scientists create new thin material that mimics cell membranes.” Innvovations-report.com. innovations report, 20 Jul. 2016. Web. 13 May 2019.

Faulstick, Britt. “’Chemical net’ could be key to capturing pure hydrogen.” Innovations-report.com. innovations report, 30 Jan. 2018. Web. 13 May 2019.

Klose, Rainer. “Get rid of sweat at the push of a button.” Innovations-report.com. innovations report, 19 Nov. 2018. Web. 13 May 2019.

Kunz, Tona. “Barely scratching the surface: A new way to make robust membranes.” Innovations-report.com. innovations report, 13 Dec. 2018. Web. 14 May 2019.

Roizen, Valerii. “Physicists get a perfect material for air filters.” Innovations-report.com. innovations report, 02 Mar. 2016. Web. 10 May 2019.

Zurn, Rhonda. “Researchers develop groundbreaking process for creating ultra-selective desperation membranes.” Innvovations-report.com. innovations report, 20 Jul. 2016. Web. 13 May 2019.

Questions & Answers

    © 2020 Leonard Kelley

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)