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Aquaporin-Inside™ Membranes for Brackish water Reverse Osmosis Application

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - AMBROSIA (Aquaporin-Inside™ Membranes for Brackish water Reverse Osmosis Application)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2019-09-30

Global and European problem
More than a billion people currently live in water-scarce regions, and as many as 3.5 billion could experience water scarcity by 2025. Forecasts estimate that water demand in 2040 will exceed supply by 50%. Seawater amounts to 97% of all water contained on Earth and can, fortunately, be converted into fresh water by desalination. In Europe, various water crisis are increasing in frequency and severity and the European Environment Agency (EEA) estimate that over one third of EU territory are water stressed, affecting over 100 million Europeans. The main causes stemming from drought, depletion of freshwater sources, causing an overall 24% decrease in renewable water resources per capita in Europe. Extreme weather caused by climate change is causing more severe and extended period of drought, as shown by data from the European Drought Observatory (EDO) below. Many efforts are taken by policy makers, legislators, industry and consumers are taking measure to improve efficiency of water utilization, but the EEA believe it is not enough to meet the challenges we face in the coming years.
Trying to satisfy a growing demand with a diminishing supply necessarily entails a greater deal of treatment if required to reach the required quantities and qualities. Water treatment is an established industry, using many technologies to purify water from various impurities or contaminants. Improved water treatment technology is therefore a critical piece of the puzzle to a sustainable water situation in Europe and globally.

Reverse Osmosis (RO) is a water purification technology where water is driven through a semipermeable membrane by applying pressure. It is the industry standard today and used in the majority of all desalination and water treatment plants globally. Compared to other alternative technologies, it is attractive because of the high water purify and rejection of most common impurities. However, it is still an expensive and energy intensive process. Greatly increasing the extent of water treatment will also require significantly more energy, with subsequent environmental impact, and higher costs to the end-user.

Aquaporin has developed a ground-breaking biomimetic technology to separate and purify water from other compounds based on nature’s own principles: Aquaporin water channel proteins. This technology will potentially disrupt the current RO technology, making it more energy and water efficient as well as more sustainable and cost-effective.

In AMBROSIA, we develop, test and market our Brackish Water RO (BWRO) membrane products for commercial launch to the market. We have completed the first phase of the project, demonstrating significant performance improvements over current available technology and preparing for commercial launch. The next phase of the project is focused on scaling up production and validating our results in application tests.
Successful completion of AMBROSIA and launch of BWRO products is a significant business opportunity for Aquaporin. The Reverse Osmosis (RO) membrane segment, which is the largest of the membrane market, was valuated at €1.1 billion in 2015 and is projected to grow by 43% over the 8-year period from 2014 to 2021, reaching a €2.5 billion revenue by 2021. Part of the RO market is dominated by BWRO membranes, the most commonly used product type in the industry. With technical superiority and strong market demand, the Aquaporin-based RO membrane could become a major contributor to export revenue and employment in Denmark and EU.
The overall goal of the project is to develop, test and market an unique and novel Brackish Water Reverse Osmosis (BWRO) membrane containing aquaporins into the market. A key focus in the project so far is the development of the membrane flat sheet at the core of the element. The technical targets have been achieved on the pilot sized tests and has moved to large industrial scale production.
In parallel to the membrane development, we have also conducted work to investigate the optimal setup and configuration for the element assembly, primarily focusing on the membrane spacers (WP2). A test skid for BWRO element testing (WP3) has also been designed in order to test the prototype elements. We are already finished the construction of the test skid and its start-up. Most of tests for modules´ characterization have already been performed. The complete characterization will be finished by January 2020.
Particular priority has been given to IP, investigating our freedom to operate within the current IP landscape and also our own patent possibilities. This has resulted in filing of a patent application at international and national authorities. Steps have also been taken with regard to food contact material compliance to enable us to access that market segment. Investigations with regard to health and safety, waste management and environment hazards have been carried out and submitted.
The commercial activities have primarily focused on mapping the market and the journey to enter the market through dialogue with industry professionals and potential customers. This has allowed us to receive valuable input while allowing us to patent our innovation.
No major changes with regard to state of the art has occurred since the start of the project.

The major global trends that underpins the project remain intact and/or stronger. Population growth, urbanization and improved living conditions adds to the demand of strained freshwater resources. Depletion and contamination of clean freshwater sources adds more pressure and cost to satisfy the demand. As time goes on, the issues become more evident and severe. We believe that there will be an even greater demand for our innovation!