Electro-membrane processes such as electrodialysis,
electrolysis, bipolar membrane technology and diffusion
dialysis using charged membranes exhibit a large potential as efficient and economic tools for pollution control in both
"end-of-pipe" treatment and as a process integrated technique. However, the various electro-membrane processes differ
significantly in terms of their fundamental process design, the properties of the different components needed, their state of development and their area of application. While e.g.
electrodialysis can be considered as a state of the art
technique, other processes like diffusion dialysis and bipolar membrane technology are just making their appearances.
With increasing environmental problems and restrictions, a
major market for these techniques will certainly be present. Chances to develop a European based electro-membrane process industry, which is at this moment relatively small compared to the ones in Japan and the USA, are estimated to be very good. The focus in this Thematic Network will be on the application of bipolar membrane technology in environmental pollution
control and cleaner production techniques. As far as
coordination of research activities within the network is
concerned , emphasis will be given to the following topics:
- preparation and characterisation of bipolar membranes and the corresponding anion and cation exchange membranes for the use in bipolar membrane technology;
- coordination of research activities at institutes and
companies in the area of module- and system design for bipolar membrane technology;
- coordination of activities, which are a direct spin-off of the development of membranes for bipolar membrane systems, e.g. the use of anion-selective membranes in "conventional" electromembrane processes.
The objective of the network is the organization of an
efficient collaboration and transfer of knowledge between
research organizations, membrane and system manufacturers and end-users of the technology in Europe. The main activities of the network are:
- transfer of knowledge through the organization of a
conference and three workshops in which different aspects of electro-membrane processes will be highlighted, e.g. membrane preparation or system design;
- coordination of exchange of personnel between the
participants of the network;
- organizing local or national networks in order to transfer knowledge to companies or institutes outside the network;
- identifying important research topics and coordinate the
preparation of proposals for research in the framework of
European and national programmes.
The collaboration between the participants could be the basis for an extensive research programme concerning the use of
electro-membrane processes in general and bipolar membrane
technology in particular as a solution for the environmental pollution control and cleaner production techniques.
EUROPEAN DIMENSION AND PARTNERSHIP
The network consists of seven industrial representatives, four universities and two research institutes for a total of
thirteen partners. The members represent eight nationalities. A thematic network on electro-membrane processes which is
focused on the application of electrodialysis with bipolar
membranes in environmental pollution control and cleaner
production is of relevance for the entire European Union with significant benefits for industry and academic research groups as well as for the society as a whole. Pollution control and cleaner production are problems in all Member States of the
European Union and all have national programmes facing these problems. Electrodialysis in general and specially in
connection with bipolar membranes is a very effective tool for the treatment of certain industrial effluents containing toxic components which should not be released to the environment or valuable materials which can be recovered and re-used.
Only very recently have European industrial organizations
become involved in the production of ion-exchange membranes and the development of electrodialysis systems. Unfortunately the use of electrodialysis with bipolar membranes in Europe has
been very scattered with hardly any co-operation or even
communication between academic groups and industry. This
thematic network is focusing on the problems of co-operation and co-ordination of research and development on bipolar
membranes and their utilisation in environmental pollution
control and cleaner production within the European Union.
The main objective of this thematic network is to organise an efficient coordination of existing knowledge in the field of electro-membrane processes (with a special focus on bipolar
membrane technology) between research organizations, membraneand systems manufacturers, and users of the technology in
Electro-membrane processes are in direct competition with other separation processes in many applications. The growth of the electro-membrane technology is noted particularly in the food and chemical industry and in waste water treatment.
The strategic importance of electro-membrane processes in
environmental pollution control and cleaner production
techniques was also indicated by representatives of the
chemical industry in Europe by ranking this among the top-three topics in the Sustech initiative of CEFIC.
Furthermore, the topic of environmental pollution control and cleaner production techniques is excellently suited for large scale co-operation in Europe as solutions to environmental
problems are in general not considered of strategic importance for a company and therefore the willingness of the participants to collaborate in a network is higher.
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