The environmental impact of polymeric membrane production

Journal of Membrane Science
Journal of Membrane Science

The research article 'Assessment of the environmental impact of polymeric membrane production' has been published in Elsevier's Journal of Membrane Science (Volume 622, 15 March 2021, 118987).


Polymeric membranes are important in advanced separation technologies because of their high efficiency and low environmental impact. However, procedures for membrane production are far from sustainable and environmentally friendly. This work presents a life cycle assessment of the environmental impact of fabricating 1000 m2 of hollow fiber polymeric membranes. Membrane materials considered include the most popular fossil- and bio-based polymers in current use, i.e., polysulfones, polyvinylidene fluoride, and cellulose acetate. Solvents considered for use in polymer dope solution included polar aprotic solvents (N-Methyl-2-pyrrolidone, NN-dimethylacetamide, and dimethylformamide) that are widely used in industry and an alternative green solvent (ethylene carbonate). The impacts of membrane production on global warming, marine ecotoxicity, human carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic toxicity, land use potential, and fossil resource scarcity were analyzed. Additionally, the impact on the sustainability and environmental cost of membrane production resulting from replacing fossil-based polymers with bio-based polymers or substituting toxic solvents with a green alternative was investigated. Hot spots in the membrane production process were identified, and measures to reduce the environmental impact of membrane production were proposed.

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