Researchers engaged in pioneering research at the University of Bath, Somerset, UK, have come up with findings that suggest developments made in 3D printing technology could lead to groundbreaking advancement in membrane technology. The research has been undertaken by the aegis of Center for Advanced Separations Engineering (CASE) that is affiliated with University of Bath. Membrane technology is extensively used across a range of industries where segregation and distillation or refinement of water, solutions, gases, and fine chemicals is integral.
Manufacturing techniques currently produce membranes that have specific structural drawbacks due to which the separation of molecules within a liquid or gaseous solution is not perfect. The researchers involved in the study have carried out threadbare analysis and arrived at the conclusion that the state-of-the-art techniques used in 3D printing have the potential of spearheading the development of better quality membranes ultimately leading to improved molecular separation.
Applications of Membranes
Membranes function as a separator or selective barrier having a semi-permeable surface that helps in separating molecules of gaseous or liquid solutions into two distinct streams. For instance, membranes come in handy during the desalination process where salt is separated from water through reverse osmosis mechanism. 3D printing technology sometimes called additive manufacturing is extremely effective in generating geometrical shapes ranging from the simplest to the most complex using a myriad variety of materials and across a range of scales.
Three-dimensional data processing has applications in a comprehensive range of industries including but not limited to academics, engineering, medical, manufacturing, chemical, pharmaceuticals, and confectionary. Nevertheless, this advanced printing technique has been scarcely used in the arena of the separation membrane.
The membranes that are being used at present mostly have a structure that is either flat or is tubular. Inadequacies pertaining to the manufacturing processes of membranes don’t allow the production of other types of crusts or films. Consequently, the effectiveness of presently available membranes is severely limited when it comes to segregating molecules of different elements.
How can 3D printing help steer development in membrane technology?
Researchers were able to pinpoint ways in which techniques of three-dimensional printing could pave the way for the development of innovative mechanisms for producing prototypes of membranes of varying shapes and sizes. Prototypes or models of membranes that are developed using advanced printing technologies will go a long way in the creation of membranes that’ll be able to function as more efficient separators.
The research paper emphasizes on the current benefits and loopholes of the various 3D printing mechanisms and also lays stress on the prospects of developing more sophisticated membrane manufacturing methods indicates a future where printing using 3D technology will result in producing membranes of better capability. Membrane technology allows for more accurate molecular separations with respect to gases and liquids using less energy and in a manner that is environmentally friendly.