Combining Adsorption and Low-pressure Membrane Technologies for High-quality Water Production

This project extends our previous FES projects, combining the advanced membrane technology with the adsorption technology for treating oil sands produced water. In our previous project, we designed low-pressure membrane modules with exceptional impurity separation targeting bacteria, viruses, and oil. We integrated silver-based MOFs and eco-friendly additives like lignin for effective contaminant removal. The membranes had nearly 50% lignin content, reducing costs. To address high-pressure tolerance, we'll use liquid lignin oligomers produced in Dr. Ullah’s lab. With prior FES support, Drs. Ullah & Siddique developed sorbents with high removal efficiencies. With ongoing support, we aim to develop large-scale sorbents, conduct desorption studies, and optimize adsorption and membrane technology for a combined, single-step water treatment process. Collaborating with industrial partner Fourien, we'll design, simulate, fabricate, and test a prototype reactor, advancing toward commercialization as an alternative treatment technology for contaminated waters. The hybrid technology will be provided to other industries for testing and early adoption. Our low-pressure membrane tech, combined with chicken feather keratin-based biopolymer adsorption, outshines current methods by efficiently removing multiple contaminants from produced water using eco-friendly materials. Canada, with its substantial production of food and wood products, possesses significant long-term potential to leverage lignin and keratin-based biopolymers for crafting value-added products.

The proposed technology's key areas of impact are:

Water Benefits: The oil sands industry's growth may face limitations due to increased water consumption. Current inefficient water treatment methods strain freshwater resources, risking environmental sustainability. Our technology addresses these challenges, mitigating risks associated with surface water depletion, water disposal, and groundwater contamination.

GHG Emissions Reductions: The proposed technology's impact on GHG emissions reduction is twofold upon market implementation: First, our materials' carbon footprint is less than that of their commercial counterparts. Second, after the successful deployment of our technology, water recovery and energy efficiency of industrial processes increase, leading to fewer GHG emissions.

Recyclability and degradability: We would test the recyclability and degradability of adsorbents at the end of life. We would also test the partial degradability of membranes containing 50% or higher lignin content.