New enabling technology with huge application bandwidth
The fluvicon GmbH company, based in Leoben, has developed Ionosmosis, a continuous, robust membrane process that challenges the status quo in the field of water treatment. In contrast to any other membrane or filter process, Ionosmosis can be used to produce clean drinking or service water from almost any quality of feed water, i.e. with dissolved components (e.g. salts, carbohydrates, pharmaceutical ingredients, and other ions) and non-dissolved components (e.g. oil, organic and suspended matter) are almost completely separated. Fouling and scaling, the two major problem areas in conventional membrane separation technology, do not play a role here, which facilitates long membrane life. The range of applications ranges from seawater desalination to process and wastewater treatment right up to the concentration of fruit juice or recyclable materials.
Water sector problem solver with enormous CO2 savings potential
The fluvicon company develops processes and systems based on forward osmosis. This exploits naturally existing osmotic pressure as a driving force. In contrast to reverse osmosis, during forward osmosis the feed water flows past the membrane without pressure. On the other side of the membrane there is a hypertonic (pull) solution that pulls the water molecules from the feed water through the membrane (view video description at fluvicon.com). The problem of the technical use of forward osmosis, which up to now has been unresolved, was the removal of water absorbed from the hypertonic solution to enable a continuous and financially viable process. The fluvicon company has been able to combine forward osmosis with other process steps, resulting in three innovative processes to date. The first of these is Ionosmosis, which requires only 50% as much energy as reverse osmosis and 90% less than vacuum evaporation. As a result, Ionosmosis opens up enormous potential for economically viable and CO2 saving solutions to environmental problems in a wide range of industries.
Pilot plant demonstrates potential in industrial wastewater sector
The initial market launch for the application in wastewater treatment has been with an Austrian automotive supplier, which until now has always needed a special permit for discharge of its wastewater, due to heavy contamination with oil and inorganic materials. With the aid of Ionosmosis, all organic and inorganic material is depleted from this wastewater in the form of a concentrate, which can be cost-effectively sent to thermal recycling. The pilot plant, currently in operation at the customer, generates 18m3 of clean wastewater per day, which can be discharged or reused as process water. Extensive chemical pre-treatment stages such as flotation or emulsion cleavage have been completely eliminated. Similar application opportunities are to be found with other customers: from enabling discharge to the drain of wastewater, which was previously considered untreatable for economic reasons; to using membrane technology for separation of emulsions using the energy-saving release of vacuum evaporators through the ZLD processes; or dewatering of hazardous waste before sending it to incineration.