News Feature | May 1, 2017

Membrane Breakthrough Targets Viruses

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,
@sarmje

bacteria reg new

Researchers claim they have developed new membrane technology to eliminate viruses from treated wastewater and allow for potable reuse.

Researchers from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) published their findings in Water Research, and BGU released a statement this week.

The researchers say their findings could improve treatment processes for municipal wastewater reuse in water-scarce cities.

“Current membrane filtration methods require intensive energy to adequately remove pathogenic viruses without using chemicals like chlorine, which can contaminate the water with disinfection byproducts,” the statement said.

The researchers grafted a hydrogel coating onto a commercial ultrafiltration membrane. Instead of passing through the membrane, the virus is repelled.

"Utilizing a simple graft-polymerization of commercialized membranes to make virus removal more comprehensive is a promising development for controlling filtration of pathogens in potable water reuse," said Thanh Nguyen, a researcher at UIUC.

The study pointed out that despite growing interest in potable reuse among drought-plagued cities, the public is worried about water quality, including virus threats.

“Membrane filtration can achieve sufficient removal of pathogenic viruses without disinfection byproducts, but the required energy is intensive,” the study said.

“The simple graft-polymerization functionalization of commercialized membrane achieving enhanced virus removal efficiency highlights the promise of membrane filtration for pathogen control in potable water reuse,” it continued.

California is among the most prominent regions considering direct potable reuse (DPR). The state released a draft report on the technology last year, citing the need for more research into DPR before it can be put to use.

“The State Water Board recommends that short term research be conducted to identify suitable treatment options for final treatment processes that can provide some attenuation with respect to potential chemical peaks (in particular, for chemicals that have the potential to persist through advanced water treatment), which may be best conducted by the water and wastewater industry as an engineering application,” the draft report said.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Water Membranes Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Cell culture," Umberto Salvagnin © 2008, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/