The two-year project tackles the problem of RO, which is susceptible to blistering due to the high pressures during processing. The problem can also occur in nanofiltration (NF) and ultrafiltration (UF) membranes.
USDA plant inspections
They pose a risk because they can harbor microorganisms and, when discovered during routine USDA (United Stated Department of Agriculture) inspections, can result in the plant being shut down immediately until the membranes have been replaced.
Mike Roberts, process engineer, GEA, told DairyReporter, not only are membranes expensive, the cost of an unscheduled shutdown of a plant can be extreme.
GEA partnered with GE after a mutual client using both their equipment and GE membranes had a problem with blistering for some time.
“It shows that through cooperation it’s possible to achieve remarkable results,” he said.
“By joining forces and working together we have been able to provide a technology that enhances GE’s product range giving it a competitive edge, reduces costs and prevents product contamination.”
Following the GEA initiative, GE set about enhancing their RO membranes to stop blistering.
Whey concentration & water recovery
GEA, with the cooperation of an end user, provided testing and evaluation facilities allowing membranes to work under operational conditions for more than one year on GEA equipment.
Applications tested included whey concentration and water recovery operations and several membrane formulations were used during the test period.
During testing, the final revision of membranes showed prevention of blistering.
Fred Liberatore, global commercial director, GE, added, “Partnering GE’s technology with GEA’s processing knowledge to reduce product contamination is in everyone’s interest, especially the consumers.”
The ‘Blister Free’ RO membranes have been available from GE since November.