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Novel Manufacturing Methods for Membranes and Desalination System Components


b.      Novel Manufacturing Methods for Membranes and Desalination System Components

This subtopic solicits proposals to develop continuous, precise, and smart manufacturing techniques that have the potential to lower the cost and facilitate the adoption of high-performance membrane materials and design architectures. Together, such changes in design and materials manufacturing methods could substantially reduce the time to market for new membranes critical for desalination of water. Novel manufacturing methods must be explored to ensure new materials for membranes and desalination systems can be produced with suitable low-cost and scalability. Therefore, the R&D supported under this subtopic must improve materials, design, and manufacturability of high-performance membranes and desalination system components with the goal of reducing costs relative to current methods.


This subtopic supports the objectives of the Water Security Grand Challenge, a DOE-led framework to advance transformational technology and innovation to meet the global need for safe, secure, and affordable water [1].


Proposals must address one of the following three areas of interest to be considered responsive to this subtopic:

1.      Low-cost membrane materials and manufacturing methods: R&D is needed to advance the next generation of membrane materials and manufacturing methods. Researchers developing new membrane materials must balance material performance (e.g., separation properties, thermal conductivity, catalytic activity), against robustness (e.g., mechanical, chemical) and manufacturability (e.g., cost, scalability). Materials R&D can lead to improvements in surface chemistry and interfaces that enable development of materials having 1) high-target ion selectivity, 2) high contaminant removal and water permeability, and 3) greater chemical resistance, antifouling and corrosion-resistance compared to state of the art. Innovations in both membrane materials and related manufacturing methods could vastly expand the range of water chemistries over which modular membrane systems are cost-competitive and potentially eliminate the need for energy-intensive pretreatment and post-treatment. Innovations in high-performance materials and multifunctional membranes enabled by new approaches in materials discovery, synthesis, and characterization are sought. Novel methods of manufacturing that lower cost and improve chemical and hydrodynamic performance that could substantially lower the energy intensity, levelized cost of water (LCOW), water intensity, and failure frequency of treatment processes to increase the nation’s ability to tap nontraditional water sources also are sought. Such materials for membranes may become more cost effective if they can leverage recent additive, gradient, and roll-to-roll manufacturing advances that lower production costs.


2.      Manufacturing ultra-low cost, high sensitivity sensors and sensor networks for water quality measurements and detection of emerging contaminants: Current water treatment systems are designed to operate at nominally steady-state conditions, relying on human intervention to adapt to variations in water quality and correct failures in process performance. Simple, robust sensor networks coupled with sophisticated analytics and controls systems could enhance performance efficiency, process reliability, and treatment process adaptability while minimizing the need for onsite, manual interventions. These innovations could significantly lower the cost of distributed, fit-for-purpose desalination systems and their operational expenses, thus reducing the overall cost of water treatment This area of interest is focused on developing new, innovative sensors and overcoming related manufacturability challenges for high sensitivity sensors and sensor networks for water quality measurements and detection of emerging contaminants. These sensor data could be used to optimize desalination and other water treatment processes. Data needs for process control and monitoring could also be addressed through these new sensors and sensor networks.


3.      Novel methods and technologies for in-situ characterization of membranes during roll-to-roll or otherwise continuous manufacturing: Traditional manufacturing methods can hinder the adoption of novel materials and new architectural designs in desalination system components such as membranes. To reduce membrane costs, there is a need to develop roll-to-roll (R2R) platforms and other continuous manufacturing processes that allow careful control of membrane microstructure and performance. For example, development of new ceramic and composite materials could be accelerated to commercial scale with research on additive and R2R manufacturing, enabled by development of methods to deposit ceramics on complex shapes and rough surfaces. These advances require the development of 1) in-situ characterization techniques that enable control of membrane properties during manufacturing; 2) in operando materials characterization techniques that facilitate understanding of membrane performance under varying conditions; and 3) manufacturing innovations that enable the scalable deployment of novel membrane materials in cost-competitive modules. Process optimization could be achieved by advanced characterization capabilities, such as in-situ X-ray scattering during R2R processing. Cutting-edge characterization tools at national user facilities could be leveraged for materials and processes design and optimization of membrane manufacturing.


Questions – Contact: Melissa Klembara,

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