Patrick Reynolds, PhD

Environmental Consultant & Website Designer
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Innovative Aquapore Cross-Flow Membranes for Desalination via Biomimicry

"There's over a billion people on this planet that don't have access to clean drinking water". (Michael Moore)

I have been following the latest developments in the area of desalination. I am of the belief that nature holds many secrets for us to discover in order for our propagation as a species. For instance, it struck me quite a few years ago when I was working at the University of Essex in the UK that mangoves are capable of desalinating water without the need for extreme energy-consuming external forces. Where there is a glut of energy, such as in oil bearing countries, of course it is possible to desalinate sea water, albeit at a cost to the environment in terms of energy consumption, with concomitant CO2 production.  

To me it appears to be all about plants, which, in part, are a Kingdom that supplies us with fossil fuels formed by natural processes such as anaerobic decomposition. If dead plants provide us with non-renewable resources, then it follows by my logic that living plants will provide us with the opposite renewable resources, i.e.  'So below, As Above'. 

Recently, researchers in Denmark  (Applied Biomimetic A/S) have been working to develop a unique technology for absolute water purification, conserving energy and saving costs using cross-flow membranes incorporating Aquaporin produced by bacterial fermentation. They quote that 'Aquaporin are a family of membrane proteins which regulate transport of water, glycerol etc. across the hydrophobic cell membranes. Living cells are surrounded by a lipid bilayer – a membrane with a thickness of approximately 5 nanometers. In these bilayers the aquaporins function by transporting water molecules in and out of the cell'.

On their website I also read, "Aquaporin research was initiated by molecular biologist Peter Agre, who was awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his scientific discoveries. Subsequent research has been carried out by other researchers including Professor Carlo Montemagno, co-founder of Mangrove Membranes. His work forms the base for the proprietary technology of Mangrove Membranes Inc. Mangroves Membranes has developed its own aquaporin production technology".

Is this the answer? Of that I am not sure. However, it is definitely a step in the right direction. I do not know if the technology provides a method for the re-mineralisation of water, which is the biggest problem in desalination, since their website does not provide much information. 

Interestingly, in 2014, another group working out of the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have patented Aquaporin based thin film composite membranes

It seems to me that this is not an issue of comodity but rather an issue of necessity. Hopefully it will not go the same way as Maurice Ward's (deceased) invention of Starlite!

People of course still believe that 'they' are responsible for the inventions...this tickles me as I am aware that innovative ideas just pass through us. I should know as I have invented many things, but rather than patent them I simply pass them to whoever needs them. If we take note and develop together then we all gain and thus allow our progress as a species to go into an exponential growth phase. We will then get off this rock! 

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