At Smart Separations, our organisation is dedicated to creating the next generation of microfiltration membranes, and we’ve built up an amazing team of filtration experts to help us get there.
We’re not exaggerating when we say we’re passionate about microfiltration. Yet, we also know not everyone ‘gets’ our passion.
Clean drinking water is widely available and HEPA filters have been able to remove 99.95% of dust particles from the air since the 1940s. What’s really left for microfiltration to do? Why should anyone be watching this technology?
To help answer this, we’ve taken some time to look at what microfiltration is and some of the crucial roles it plays in everything from cancer research to fighting air pollution.
What is Microfiltration?
‘Microfiltration’ refers to the filtration of particles between 0.1 to 10 micrometres or microns from a fluid or gas, although in some cases it may include filtration of particles as big as 100 micrometres.
This size range goes from objects as small as smoke particles to some as large as pollen. For a frame of reference, particles below 50 to 60 microns are not generally visible to the naked human eye.
Take a look at this chart of common particles to get a feel for just how small a micrometre is:
10 micrometres is seen as the point at which a particle becomes inhaliable. This means the particle can enter the lungs through normal respiration.
Particles between 1 and 2.5 micrometres are sometimes seen as the most dangerous size for humans as they can become deeply embedded into the lungs, as far as the alveoli.
From the size chart above, you can see that microfiltration has limits: it cannot filter out many virus particles and cannot filter out carbon dioxide. To reach smaller viruses you need to use nano or ultrafiltration and for carbon dioxide, you need to use some form of carbon capture technology.
How Does Microfiltration Work?
Microfiltration typically refers to the process of membrane filtration. A semipermeable barrier that removes solids from a liquid or gas stream.
The principle is, in essence, the same as using a coffee filter when making filter coffee.
Liquids or gases are passed through or across the membrane with a medium to high velocity and with a low to medium amount of pressure. Microfiltration is a cost-effective method of filtration and is often used at the beginning of a process before a fluid is given further treatment.
The two main approaches are direct flow and crossflow filtration.
Direct flow filtration works by forcing a flow of water directly through the membrane. This method results in a build-up of the filtered material, known as a ‘filter cake’. It is best used when the liquid will have fewer particles in it and the filter can be cleaned regularly.
Crossflow filtration works by feeding a liquid across the membrane. This produces a weaker filter cake and it can be used with liquids containing a higher concentration of particles without the need to clean or replace the filter as regularly.
When is Microfiltration Used?
Microfiltration can be used whenever particles between 0.1 and 10 micrometres in size need to be filtered. Some of the main uses include:
Microfiltration is often one of the first steps in disinfecting water, either for drinking or in processing wastewater for reuse. It can be particularly useful as an alternative to more expensive chemical treatments.
A variety of drinks including juices, milk and wine require microfiltration for safe consumption or improved quality. This is crucial for removing bacteria from beverages and increasing shelf-life without altering the flavour of the beverage too much.
Medical Processing & Research
Blood, stem cells and many varieties of pharmaceuticals require filtration before they can be given further processing or given to humans. Filtration can help to process these materials without reducing their effectiveness.
Microfilters can be used to remove dust, pollen and bacteria from inside homes, workplaces and vehicles. This is crucial for allergy sufferers and can play a role in reducing air pollution.
Particulate filters are used to capture soot released from diesel engines, particularly for use in vehicles. Capturing 85% or more of soot released from cars. In much of the world, there has been a big push to make diesel particularly filters standard.
Why is Microfiltration Important?
There are many important things that microfiltration can do, but the truly exciting prospect is how it does them.
Microfilter membranes are simple, physical mechanisms and they can often be used without consuming huge amounts of energy.
With the right microfilters, you can reduce reliance on chemical treatments, you can process materials without changing their form too much and they can be used in remote locations with minimal environmental impact.
In addition, they can be retrofitted onto existing devices and don’t always require the same level of expertise to use as chemical treatments.
By improving how efficient microfilters are and creating membranes that are robust and have increased longevity, we can help the world become more sustainable.
How Smart Separations is Changing Things
At Smart Separations, we’re doubling down on the microfilter.
Creating an affordable, customisable ceramic microfilter that can be used with a variety of systems and with dramatically reduced wastage.
Our research is focused on increasing on all this potential. Using air scrubbing technology to increase efficiency and offering new benefits such as odour reduction and reduced energy usage.
In short, we’ve made the microfilter more powerful and made it available to anyone who can benefit from it.
If you’d like to find out more, then get in touch with us today.