Biomimetic Membrane will Lower Water Purification Costs

Sustainability Problem

  • Only 2.5% of the Earth’s water is fresh.
  • According to the United Nations’ Sustainability Goals, 1 in 10 (663 million people) lack improved drinking water. Approximately half of the world’s population may be at risk of a water crisis by 2025.

Summary of “Highly Efficient Nature-Inspired Membrane Could Potentially Lower Cost of Water Purification by 30%” published in

  • Traditional methods to treat water through high-hydraulic or osmotic process incur huge energy costs. High water pressure is required to force water through filtering membranes. The additional energy generation increases air pollution.
  • A team led by Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering associate professor, Tong Yen Wah, constructed a new biomimetic membrane that copies the natural process performed by the roots of mangrove trees. Mangrove trees utilize aquaporin to filter between 90 and 95% of the salt at its roots.
  • The new membrane is embedded with nano-sized aquaporin-vesicles offering a stable and functional ultrafiltration substrate.
  • The aquaporin-incorporated biomimetic membrane enables the water to pass through more efficiently at lower pressures, which decreases the amount of energy required to purify (30% reduction). The membrane also decreases salt leakage.


  • Arid regions
  • Governmental bodies
  • Water service providers
  • Water reclamation site developers
  • Humanity, particularly the urban poor
  • The environment


  • The material can be used in industrial application for wastewater treatment and desalination and a full-scale pilot will be developed in partnership with a US-based company by 2018.



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