US demand for membranes to approach US$5.4 billion in 2016

The Freedonia Group report says that this growth will be driven by the need to comply with environmental regulations regarding water and wastewater streams, as these regulations often require purity levels that are best achieved using membranes. Additionally, as manufacturing activity and investment in industrial equipment continues to improve, companies will increasingly purchase membrane separation systems either to replace conventional separation systems or to fill new fluid separation needs. Water and wastewater treatment will continue to be the largest market for membranes in 2016, representing nearly half of sales.

Polymeric membrane materials will continue to dominate the market because of their relatively low initial costs and their suitability for use in a range of applications. Fluoropolymers and polyamides each accounted for approximately 30% of the polymeric market in 2011. Demand for non-polymeric materials, including ceramics, metals and composites, will increase due to factors such as better performance in extreme temperatures and greater pH ranges, as well as generally lower maintenance costs.

Microfiltration membranes, which represent the most established and mature type of membranes, are projected to continue to account for the largest share of total demand for the foreseeable future, Freedonia says. However, more rapid advances are projected for reverse osmosis and ultrafiltration membranes, both of which produce higher purity streams. These two membrane types will also benefit from their ability to sufficiently treat wastewater for reuse and from growing interest in producing potable water from brackish water and seawater. Among the major types, gains are expected to be fastest for pervaporation membranes, albeit from a small base. The ongoing development of pervaporation membranes will contribute to their increasing penetration of high-growth specialty markets such as chemical processing and pharmaceutical manufacturing, as well as fluid treatment in wastewater and industrial gas processing.