The availability and utilization of advanced water treatment technology is critical to the NASA space mission program for astronaut survival as well as the overall mission fuel costs. These technologies can enable longer space journeys for astronauts to places such as Mars, currently limited by availability of provision storage and maintenance requirements, and decrease the payload for each mission resulting in a savings of approximately $10,000 per pound in fuel costs. To that end, NASA is currently developing the next generation wastewater treatment technology, the Forward Osmosis System (FOS), which will include the zNano membrane technology.
“The data collected from the zNano membrane shows a groundbreaking advancement in FO membrane technology that will have a significant impact on the critical infrastructure of the NASA space missions” said Michael Flynn, NASA Ames researcher.
The NASA study compared the existing FO membrane to zNano’s breakthrough platform chemistry which creates a membrane comprised of cellular like material. Like cellular membranes in living creatures, it is semi permeable; allowing water to pass through the membrane while preventing larger molecules from doing so. The flow of water through the cellular membrane is 100x greater than the flow of water through current commercial FO membrane. The zNano material leverages this advantage to achieve improved FO water flux.
In their presentation, NASA reported both FO DI water flux of 86.1 +/- 4.09 liters per square meters per hour (LMH) and FO wastewater flux of 23.1 +/- 4.8 LMH using 2 M NaCl as an osmotic agent and using zero trans membrane pressure with the prototype zNano ML1 membrane. Under identical conditions with the commercial membrane, NASA reported both FO DI water flux 7.15 +/- 0.326 LMH and FO wastewater flux of 5.2 +/- 0.384. In the FO wastewater filtration experiments, the average ion removal of the zNano membrane was 87% in comparison to 98% by the commercial membrane.
By comparison, the zNano platform membrane chemistry is low cost relative to other biomimetic protein based membranes due to zNano’s use of commercially available molecules manufactured in a process that is common in the membrane industry. This low cost and common manufacturing process eliminates most of the barriers to scaling the technology and zNano expects the material to be on the market within a year.
“We are extremely excited by these results.” said Adrian Brozell, PhD CEO zNano. “Typical improvements in membranes are between 10% and 50%. A 400% improvement is truly transformative to the economics of forward osmosis.”
To enable the FO market, zNano has made their active layer, flat sheet membrane and elements available to both membrane and equipment manufacturers. The goal is to enable manufacturers to develop FO solutions in the same way that Open Source has revolutionized software development. Despite its superior performance the price of the zNano membrane is comparable to other commercially available FO membranes. Dr. Brozell says that FO is not the only application for its membrane technology. “This is the first demonstration of our platform active layer chemistry technology. We believe that we can improve membrane performance greater than 2x for a variety of membrane classes for a variety of applications. This is just our first step.”
For more information about zNano’s Biomimetic Forward Osmosis Membrane and the data collected by NASA Ames visit: http://www.znano.biz/
Dr. Adrian Brozell holds a PhD in Biophysics from UC Davis and was a business development fellow at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. He founded zNano in 2010 to develop lipid based membrane technology and its applications for both water treatment and ion exchange membranes. zNano was incubated until 2011 at the San Jose Biocenter and now operates a pilot production facility in North San Jose. zNano sells active layers, flat sheet membrane, and spiral wound elements to researchers, membrane manufacturers and equipment manufacturers in the global filtration market. To date, zNano has received funding from Angel Investors and corporate partners. For more information about zNano visit: www.znanosys.com
Erika Kula, Marketing Director, zNano, LLC
Erika Kula, Marketing Director, zNano, LLC