Surface Deposition of Small Molecules to Increase Water Purification Membrane Fouling Resistance

Physical Sciences : Materials and Compounds

Available for licensing


  • Benny Freeman, Ph.D. , Chemical Engineering
  • Daniel Miller, Ph.D. , Chemical Engineering
  • Bryan McCloskey, Ph.D. , Chemical Engineering
  • Christopher Bielawski, Ph.D. , Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Daniel Dreyer , Chemistry and Biochemistry

Background/unmet need

Fouling of water purification membranes is a major barrier, since impurities that deposit on the membrane reduce water flux. This increases operating costs and decreases membrane life. One method of reducing fouling is to increase the hydrophilicity of the membrane.

Invention Description

Increasing surface hydrophilicity of reverse osmosis and ultrafiltration membranes reduces membrane fouling, which results in higher water flux across the membrane. This invention is a novel surface treatment method which improves on other modifications because of its ease of application to virtually any membrane support. The surface treatment molecules adhere non-specifically to surfaces they contact. Additionally, they reduce the risk of delamination because of bonding interactions with the membrane support.


  • Increasing the anti-fouling ability of water purification membranes increases product lifetime and enables greater flux rates.
  • The coating process is a simple, one step modification that can be done on many different surfaces, offering more commercial applications.


  • This invention is applicable to multiple types of water purification membranes.
  • The deposition method used offers ease of applicability. 

Market potential/applications

The water purification membrane market is substantial (about $3 billion for 2010), and it is anticipated to grow 10% to 12% annually for the next 10 to 15 years. This technology could have an immediate impact on existing infrastructure, enabling quick return-on-investment by extending the life and increasing the flux rate of current products.

Development Stage

Lab/bench prototype

IP Status

  • 1 U.S. patent application filed