Water filtration by reverse osmosis (RO) is the most widespread desalination technology worldwide, which helps meeting the current water demand. Economic forecasts estimate that in 2021 the market will achieve 11 billion $, which represents an annual growth rate of 10.9% from 2016 to 2021. Other membranes such as nanofiltration (NF) and ultrafiltration (UF) have lower market size (around 10-fold and 6-fold smaller, respectively) but show a great potential to be used in water reuse and industry applications. Besides, osmotic processes such as forward osmosis (FO) gained interests in the last two decades, initially envisioned as an alternative to seawater desalination or for energy production.
Despite the valuable use of membrane technology, membrane industrial processes still follow the linear economy model and predictions estimate 2 million RO membranes disposed of in landfills annually in 2025. Although great potential of the recycling process was demonstrated at laboratory and pilot scale, several issues remain to be solved to move towards circular economy. Osmo4Lives will address those issues based on an interdisciplinary, applied research approach considering fundamental, technical and practical aspects for recycling implementation.
The main motivation of Osmo4Lives project (Giving four lives to osmotic membranes with innovative recycling processes) is to move the membrane industry towards the implementation of circular economy principles, eradicating the currently prevailing single use in one single process paradigm. The project is structured in 5 interconnected work packages (WPs). WP1 will improve fundamental understanding of the impact of improper membrane operation or conditioning on their performance. Moreover, it will elucidate the interactions of recently developed desalination membranes (RO and FO) and recycling process requirements. WP2 will assess the cascade recycling process for spiralwound membranes. SWRO membranes will be recycled into BWRO-like membranes, then to NF-like membranes and then to UF-like membranes. After each recycling cycle, membranes will be validated (WP3) in novel water treatment processes (prolonging with 3 more lives the lifespan of the original SWRO membrane). A Techno-economic and environmental evaluation of the global impact of recycled membranes (LCA, LCC) will be conducted using WP2 and WP3 inputs. Besides, scientific and stakeholder communication will be reached. Patentable project outcomes will be filed as European patent applications by UdG (WP4). The management of this project (WP5) will be co-coordinated by two IPs (gender balanced).
Osmo4Lives is aligned with 9 out of 13 specific objectives of the PLAN ESTATAL (2021-2023), 2 Strategic Areas (in Spanish EA) of the Society, particularly EA5 Climate, energy and mobility and EA6 Natural Resources and Environment and with 3 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): SDG nº 6 (ensure access to water and sanitation for all), SDG nº 12 related to responsible consumption and production and SDG nº 13 related to taking urgent actions to combat climate change and its impacts. Osmo4Lives will increase the R+D+I capacity of UdG LEQUIA research group with the acquisition of key infrastructure, will increase the human resources capability (by hiring 2 people) and will promote international mobility and collaboration among members of the research and working teams: ICRA (Spain), UNSW (Australia) and Khalifa University (U.A.E.).
Principal investigadors: Dr. Gaëtan Blandin and Dra. Raquel García Pacheco