inge GmbH part of BASF

German water treatment technology sweeping the globe


Source: inge GmbH part of BASF

Founded in the year 2000, the German company inge AG has developed a product based on ultrafiltration technology that turns even the dirtiest water into clean drinking water and even filters out viruses and bacteria. However, constructing large water treatment plants is no small undertaking and typically requires millions of euros of investment. Many plant constructors were initially reluctant to back the new products of a previously unknown company, but with this German technology having lived up to its promise over a number of years, demand is now booming across the entire globe.

In Germany, having clean drinking water is almost taken for granted. Yet more than one billion people worldwide have no access to clean water. With climate change also contributing towards turning drinking water into an increasingly precious commodity, there is clearly an urgent need for a reliable and cost-effective technology that helps to purify dirty water or clean sea water ready for de-salination.

Ultrafiltration even removes viruses and bacteria from water
In comparison to conventional water treatment processes, the advantage of ultrafiltration as a filter technol-ogy is its ability to reliably remove germs, microorganisms and suspended solids from water. At around 20 nm, approximately 3000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, the pores of the membrane are small enough to prevent even viruses from passing through them. The process is simple and safe to per-form, does not require the addition of further chemical disinfectants and takes very little energy to run. De-pending on how dirty the water is, however, the membranes are required to cope with tremendous loads. It is therefore essential that the membrane fibers do not break, since otherwise viruses and bacteria could slip through. In the past, however, it was precisely this problem of fiber breakage that was the main sticking point when it came to deploying ultrafiltration technology. The company inge AG from Greifenberg am Am-mersee, Bavaria (Germany) has managed to successfully develop and produce its own membrane that is capable of stabilizing the fibers to such an extent that breakages are practically non-existent.

Honeycombs act as the inspiration for stable fiber structures
A membrane fiber structure, which the developers modeled on the honeycomb structure used by bees, has proven to be an essential ingredient in this recipe for success. A single membrane fiber combines seven individual capillaries, a fact that differentiates it from conventional single-fiber capillary membrane products, and which makes it extremely stable and resistant. The capillaries are securely mounted in a plastic hous-ing called a 'dizzer module', providing optimum hydraulic properties, extremely high durability and a clean and safe treatment process.

Various plants equipped by the company have clearly shown that its patented Multibore membrane is cur-rently the most stable membrane on the market. That is why demand for this German technology is now coming from so far afield, from Europe and China right through to the Middle East. 'We have been witness-ing a genuine boom in demand', explains Wolfgang Distler, the Chief Executive of inge AG. 'Interest in our products has never been higher, and the markets have never been more ready for such an innovative technology.'

Market for municipal water systems set to reach US $ 40 billion over the next 5 years
According to “Growing Markets for Water and Wastewater Technologies”, a new market study by BCC Research, worldwide expenditure solely on municipal water and wastewater systems amounted to US $ 8,066 million in 2005, US $ 9,575 million in 2006, and US $ 11,290 million in 2007. The study assumes a growth rate of more than 22 percent and anticipates a volume of almost US $ 40 billion for the year 2012. Few markets currently have such extraordinary potential for growth, especially when we consider that this only takes into account municipal water systems.

China is one example of this potential demand. Estimates suggest that China produces around 3.7 billion cubic meters of wastewater every day. To clean just half of this quantity for re-use, the country would need around 10,000 new treatment plants. Some initial steps have already been taken: in August 2007, the Pe-king sales office of inge AG was commissioned to use inge AG's patented membrane technology to imple-ment the wastewater treatment project for the new terminal of Beijing Capital International Airport, which is being massively expanded to cater to the Olympic Games. The total volume of treated water will be around 10,000 cubic meters per day, which corresponds to the daily water consumption of 20,000 people. The ultrafiltration system will be used to clean Peking's municipal wastewater of suspended solids, viruses, germs and bacteria. The water will then enter a desalination plant, and the treated water will supply two office buildings at the airport and the toilets in the airport hotel. This so-called 'grey water' will also be used as cooling water as well as for car washes, irrigation works and street cleaning.

Siemens to market inge AG membrane products in America, Australia and New Zealand
Such major projects naturally cause quite a stir in the water industry, so it was hardly surprising when the German technology giant Siemens AG expressed an interest in sharing in the success of this small Ger-man company's invention. The Siemens Water Technologies (WT) division and inge AG from Greifenberg have now entered into a cooperation agreement for ultrafiltration systems. Siemens will have exclusive rights to distribute inge AG's patented water treatment modules in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. This gives Siemens the most comprehensive range of products for water treat-ment in the world.

inge ultrafiltration technology to be used in Kärcher water purification systems
The world's largest cleaning equipment manufacturer, the German company Alfred Kärcher GmbH & Co. KG, is also set to launch a new product line for water ultrafiltration, which uses the UF module produced by inge AG as its core technological component. The devices will operate as so-called Point-of-Use (PoU) systems, purifying mains water directly at the tapping point. This is just one example of how ultrafiltration technology is destined not only to be used in large water treatment plants, but also increasingly in consum-ers' homes across the globe.

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