Processing Magazine

NJIT professor awarded patent for new desalination devices

May 1, 2012

NEWARK, N.J. — Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering Kamalesh K. Sirkar was awarded a patent today for his water desalination technology. "Desalination Devices and Systems Using Porous Hydrophobic Hollow Fibers and Hydrophobic Porous Coatings" (US Patent Number 8,167,143) discloses membrane devices and methods for direct contact membrane distillation and vacuum membrane. Sirkar is Foundation Professor in Membrane Separations at NJIT''s Newark College of Engineering.

These devices and systems can recover a larger fraction of water from brine than reverse osmosis, the current industry standard for water desalination. In his research and pilot plant studies, Sirkar has achieved extraordinarily high water vapor fluxes and stable performances from brines with salt concentrations of over 20 percent. Reverse osmosis as currently practiced for seawater desalination does not work when salt content exceeds 6 percent.

This technology has been used successfully to treat sea water collected near the discharge from a nuclear power plant and liquid animal wastes. Additional investigations on other systems are ongoing. The design is robust in terms of handling scaling salts. Membrane distillation can utilize waste heat from a variety of sources, prevent thermal pollution and operate at essentially atmospheric pressure.