Membrane contactors: an introduction to the technology


Over the last 3 years, the designs of microporous membrane contactors for gastransfer applications have rapidly developed. These newly designed contactors have moved the technology from small Iaboratory-scale devices, hmited to 5to 10 gallons per minute (gpm) capacity, to Iarge-scale industrial devices designedfor watertreatment systems operating at 1,000 to more than 2,000 gpm. Since these devices are relatively new, the technology is often misunderstood. This article discusses thetheory and principies of operation of membrane contactors in an effortto give users a better understanding of the technology.




Membrane contactors are devices that a Wow a gaseous phase and a liquid phase to come into direct contact with each other, for the purpose of mass transfer between the phases, without dispersing one phase into the other. A typical use for these devices is the removal or dissolution of gases in water.

The concept of using membranes to bring two phases into contact with one another is not new. However, recent developments in the design of the contactors have greatly increased their efficiency and capacity. These developments have brought membrane contactors out of the laboratory and made them economical for medium- and large-scale industrial uses.

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